By Victor Ahiuma-Young
“The unfortunate thing about your plight is that the accident happened before the law came into effect. If not, it will not have been too much of a headache to you or anybody else.”
Those were the words of the management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF, when it visited an amputated Luxury Bus driver; Ferdinand Anukwu, to make undisclosed cash donation to assist him.
Mr. Anukwu was involved in a very serious accident on December 16, 2009, on his way from Umuahia to Lagos at night and since then has been battling to survive with accumulated medical bills and other debts.
A two-man NSITF team of Chinweoder C. Awa, General Manager and Chris Esedebe, Principal Manager, Lagos, told Mr. Anukwu that NSITF went out of its way to assist him because his case did not fall under the ambit of its coverage.
According to Mr. Awa, “We read a story about your ordeal and that you used to be a driver with one of the transporters in the country. The experience you are going through caught our attention.
This is what government has tried to address by the Employees’ compensation scheme through the Employees’ Compensation Act, ECA, which was signed into Law by President Goodluck Jonathan late last year.
The idea is to ensure that anybody that is working and gets injured in the course of work or dies, the scheme will take care of the worker. If the person dies, the dependents will get some benefits.
If the person gets injured, the scheme will take care of the person’s medical bills and if the person requires rehabilitation, the scheme will do that without bothering the employee or the employers provided the employers have been contributing to the scheme.”
“The unfortunate thing about your plight is that the accident happened before the law came into effect. If not, it will not have been a headache to you or anybody else.
The scheme would have immediately taken you from the site of the accident to a good hospital and treated you and if it requires more like the crutches you are using, the scheme would have provided them for you.
We took piety on you and went out of our way to assist you and in our advocacy to ensure that employers and workers embrace this scheme; we made several visits to your employers and we are telling other employers to key into the scheme to ensure that workers do not suffer unduly.”
“Accident is something that can happen anytime and if it happens, the victim or his family should be compensated. We are advocating that you employers and other kind hearted Nigerians and groups come to your aid. We are also here to make a token donation to assist you in further treatment and others.”
How the accident happened
Recalling how his ordeal began, Mr. Anukwu said, “It was on December 16, 2007, I was directed by my management to take my bus back to Lagos at night. The manager refused to give me money to buy diesel, but somebody gave me diesel to start the journey.
I left Umuahia in Abia State to Onitsha en-route Lagos around 3 pm. It was approaching Christmas and the management ordered us back to Lagos because there were many passengers in Lagos with very few passengers in the East.
Before then I drove from Lagos to Port Harcourt where I was directed to go to Onitsha. After about two days, I was asked to go to Umuahia. I demanded for diesel because I had exhausted the one I bought earlier, the manager refused.
I phoned Lagos and they directed the manager at Umuahia to give me money to buy diesel, at least 50 litres, to enable me get to Onitsha. The manager insisted that there was no money.
After a while a friend told me that they were looking for an excuse to take the bus from me and gave me 50 litres. I got to Onitsha few minutes to 8 pm. Luckily, I met the manager at Onitsha who was about to close, he gave me money to buy diesel to continue the journey to Lagos.
When I got to Benin that night, I had a diesel customer; I bought credit from him to enable me get to Lagos. At Ijebu Ode, in Ogun State, a trailer driver who was running against the traffic, hit and knocked me off the road into a swamp.
But for God, my two conductors and I would have died. My right leg was amputated and since then, on my left leg, I have undergone four different surgical operations because the accident affected my waist up to the keel’s joint.
No help from my employers
As we speak, I am still in deep pain. Doctors at the Federal Medical Centre Ebute Metta have been battling to see what they can do because another amputation could mean death.
My employers were informed but till now have done nothing. I lost my wife years back and I have children that are still very young that I must take care of.
My family went to my employers to pay my medical bills before the amputation, but they refused. We even asked for loan, but they refused.
The Navy hospital where I was first taken to here in Lagos, because of lack of funds, did not pay much attention to me until my condition worsened and they asked my family to take me out of the hospital. From there, my family took me to another hospital where my right leg was amputated. Since then, I have been battling to save my left leg.
I drove Towing Van for the company for seven years before moving to Luxury bus section. While I was driving Towing Van, the Chairman of the company was friendly with me, but immediately I moved to Luxury section, the friendship ended because the Chairman said bus drivers are not his friends.
I worked with them from 1991 to 2007 before the accident. When the accident happened, other drivers on night duty rescued me. I was bleeding profusely in several parts of my body and I was taken to a nearby hospital to stop the bleeding, otherwise, I would have died before dawn.
The moment I was taken away from the scene I became unconscious. I was unconscious for months. I did not know when I was taken to Navy Hospital or when I was taken out of the hospital. Over N5 million has spent on the medical bills and as we speak, over N2.7 million is yet to be paid.
Today, it has been friends and the church that have been helping me to take care of our (my children and I) feeding and others. I go to hospital for regular check ups because the hospital has placed me on close observation and is taking x-rays every now and then for further treatment.”