Benue’s COVID-19 ‘patient’ demands release, apology from govt

April 25, 2020
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A woman who is being held in isolation as the index COVID-19 case in Benue State is demanding her immediate release from quarantine as well as public apology from government.

The woman, Mrs Susan Idoko-Okpe, a Nigerian – British citizen, through her lawyer, Ebun Olu Adegboruwa, SAN accused the authorities of detaining her against her will “and for no verifiable reason.”

In a letter dated 23 April, 2020 and addressed to the Minister of Health, the Senior Advocate alleged that his client was being mistaken for another person because she was not in the country when the tests upon which her isolation was based were conducted by the health authorities.

“The documents constituting the purported test results leading to the erroneous conclusion that our client has tested positive for COVID-19 are as follows:

“Letter dated 2nd April 2020 from the Federal Ministry of Health, signed by A.M. Abdullahi, Permanent Secretary and addressed to the Chief Medical Director of Benue State University Teaching Hospital. The subject of the said letter is said to be one “…Ms. Susan Okpe, a 62-year-old Nigerian-British citizen…”. As you would kindly confirm from our client’s bio-data on her international passport and even her Reference Card at the Grace Cottage Hospital, her name is Susan Idoko-Okpe and she is 56 years old.

“Letter dated 2nd April 2020, from the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, signed by Dr. Patrick Echekwuebe, Head of Infectious Diseases Unit and addressed to the Infectious Diseases Unit of University of Abuja Teaching Hospital. The subject matter of the said letter is “Okpe Susan/Female/62yrs”, whereas as stated earlier, our client is Susan Idoko-Okpe and she is 56 years old.

From the contents of the letter from the Benue State University Teaching Hospital above, it shows clearly that our client was not and could not have been the person referred to therein, for the following undisputed facts:

“As of 28th February when the letter was written, our client was still in the United Kingdom and she only arrived in Nigeria on March 22, 2020, as confirmed by the stamp of the Nigerian Immigration Service on her passport.

“The said letter indicated that the patient was referred to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital from a private hospital ‘after she tested positive to COVID-19’. As of this period, no test had been )nor could have been) conducted on our client, as she was still in the United Kingdom and had not arrived Nigeria at all; and our client is not Susan Okpe and she is not 62 years old.

“The third document is a purported laboratory test result from the National Reference Laboratory, Abuja, which refers to “Okpe Susan, 58 years, female, Benue State, Otukpo Local Government Area”. As stated above, our client is not 58 years old, she is not Okpe Susan and she is not from Otukpo LGA. In this same test result, it is stated that the “Date of onset of Fever” is “16/03/2020”, by which date our client was still in the United Kingdom, having only arrived Nigeria on March 22, 2020.

“The above is the only test result that has been given to our client since her ordeal started and it is the basis of her forceful detention and erroneous labeling as the so-called index case of COVID-19 in Benue State. Our client has been forced to take other tests at the National Hospital, Abuja, but no results have been given to her, despite her repeated demands. All the three documents presented to our client as constituting the results of COVID-19 tests are herewith collectively attached as Annexures D, D1 and D2 respectively.

“From all the foregoing, it is clear that our client is not and could not have been the person referred to in all the documents enumerated above. COVID-19 tests conducted in Nigeria in February 2020, could not in all possibility, refer to our client, who was at that material time in the United Kingdom. Presently, our client is being detained against her will, upon the condition that she must go through COVID-19 treatment, when the basis of that conclusion does not relate to our client at all. It is now well over one month since our client has been in unlawful captivity and she has been hale, hearty and without any symptoms of COVID-19, or indeed any other sickness or disease. She deserves her freedom, which is her constitutional right.

“Although, our client appreciates the efforts of government in containing the COVID-19 pandemic, it is however wrong to turn her into a victim of a virus that she has not been diagnosed of being infected with. Accordingly, we hereby on behalf of our client, request the Honourable Minister to use his good offices to give effect to the following:

“(i)  Direct the immediate and unconditional release of our client from unlawful custody at the National Hospital, Abuja; and

“(ii)  An unreserved public apology rendered to our client, to be published in two national newspapers, two national television stations, two national radio stations and the social media.

“Upon her release and proper rehabilitation, our client will determine the quantum of damages that she had suffered as a result of her ordeal and revert to you with details thereof, for settlement,” Adegboruwa wrote.

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NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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