"Help! I need N6 million for re-constructive surgery" cries out Barrister Francis Okafor - lawyer acid-attack victim.
Now the interview conducted by our friend, Ahams of Klinreports:
Q. What has your life been like since the acid attack on you September last year?
A. Since I was discharged from the National Orthopedic Hospital, Enugu on January 1 this year, I have been frequenting the hospital for follow up action even though the on-going treatment has nothing to do with my eye. I made a first attempt at the British Embassy to obtain visa in April this year, but that visa was rejected. The embassy officials sympathized with my plight but said I did not have credible sponsor. As a result of this, they could not give me visa. Later, we made efforts with Morphid Hospital, London to get an appointment letter and eventually in June this year, the hospital management graciously granted us appointment which is scheduled to be on August 7 this year-just a couple of days from now for me to see my doctors. I went back to the British Embassy and I am happy to announce that they granted entry visa for me to travel around August 4th so that I would meet up with my August 7th appointment.
Q. What was the extent of your treatment at the Orthopedic Hospital?
A. You know, I had multiple injuries all over my body including my head, my two eyes, my left hand and my legs. It was the burns that the Orthopedic Hospital surgeons have been treating. They brought in two doctors- Professors Nwasigwe and Onwuagwuluike, the first ophthalmologists in eastern region. The medical experts confirmed, in the course of my treatment, that my left eye is completely dead, but that the right one could be salvaged if I am urgently sent abroad for medical treatment. They said the equipment required for that treatment is not in Nigeria, that it could only be found overseas. They, therefore, advised me to make arrangements to travel overseas for that treatment. So, all this while I have been going to Orthopedic Hospital, it has just been for follow up check-ups on the injuries I sustained all over my body during the acid attack.
Q. Is it possible to quantify your expenses so far?
A. Initially, we spent N360, 000.00 (Three Hundred and Sixty Thousand Naira) at the Orthopedic Hospital. And we have been paying little amount of money for routine check-ups. However, the overseas treatment is the one that is trying to consume a lot of money because my treatment has been estimated to cause N5 million, except other travel expenses such as incidentals, feeding and accommodation.
Q. Only your treatment will cost a whopping N5 million?
A. Only treatment, but if you add these other expenses, it can go up to N7 million (about $68,000dollars USD). You see, we are talking about only my eye, not my other parts of body that are burnt. This left eye is totally burnt, and it requires plastic surgery to really reconstruct it. So, that one is not part of the estimation.
Q. So, how do you raise the money for the medical trip?
A. I have been having problems trying to raise the fund. What I have on hand now is not enough to undertake the trip. People really responded but it is not enough. The response is nothing to write home about. I cannot boast of up to N1.2 million yet the treatment requires above N5 million.
Q.What of your colleagues in the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA)?
A. In fact, the NBA has given me N1 million so far, and they said there is another small amount of money for me to collect before the trip.
Q. How do you intend to raise the remaining amount for the medical trip?
A. That is the problem. I intend to meet some international organizations while in London to see if they can give me some assistance.
Q. Apart from lawyers and concerned members of the public, has your plight been brought to the attention of government, especially, governments of the southeast geo-political zone?
A. Yes, the leadership of the bar had written to the governors of Enugu and Anambra, my home state, for financial assistance for my oversea medical treatment. But the association will still brief us on the outcome of the letters.
Q. Will the plastic surgery be carried out after this initial London treatment?
A. Yes, what they will do first of all is to treat my right eye that is, at the moment, receiving light so that thereafter, they would refer me to the plastic surgeon to now reconstruct my left eye before they can know whether it is still alive or not.
Q. What is the level of treatment of the burns?
A. I think on the face of it, the burns are gone, but I am still having some sensations. I have been receiving treatment in respect of that. You can see my head. There is plaster all over it. We thought the wound had healed, but it came back all over.
Q. There were suspects in this attack on you. What has become of the matter?
A. There is one person I did suspect and police arrested him, but eventually, while I was in the hospital he went to an Enugu High Court and, under fundamental human rights, he was granted bail. Meanwhile, I have not gathered strength enough to prosecute that matter because I have to be in court to prosecute the suspect. So, we have not done anything in respect of prosecution of that matter. It is just pending while the suspect is on bail. For now, the matter is adjourned sine die until I recover. Then if I want to prosecute him, I would reactivate the matter.
Q. Once more, could you recapture the deadly attack on you?
A. On September 26, 2007 (last year), I finished my chambers work by 8 pm and came out of my office to enter my car. As I was about to board my car, I had a call on my mobile telephone handset. So, I stood by the car door to answer the call. While I was still standing, saying ‘Hello, Hello’ on the phone, I heard a bang on my head, ‘Gboooh!’ I thought it was a bottle that was broken on my head, but substance was pouring all over my body. I subsequently received very serious burning sensation, and I started shouting. At this juncture, people rushed to my rescue and I was taken to the National Orthopedic Hospital.
Q. When will you return back to Nigeria?
A. I was granted six months visa. So, I will be back to Nigeria by January 17, 2009
PLEASE DONATE TODAY TO HIS APPEAL FUND:
ACCOUNT NUMBER 0191201008081, OCEANIC BANK PLC
& ACCOUNT NUMBER 9562000013956,UNION BANK PLC,
Also, you can send your donation/gift vide Western Union or Money Gram and alert him on his telephone numbers 0112348038726495 & 011248037741703
(please be mindful of his trip to London for treatment at Morphid Hospital beginning from August 4th, 2008)