A Nigerian student whose left leg was amputated after he was shot by a soldier says he is helpless after military authorities in Nigeria told him they were not liable for the soldier’s action.
He is unable to complete his studies, he said, and is seeking anyone who can help him with an artificial leg.
The victim, Emmanuel Madubuezi, a student of computer science at Port Harcourt Polytechnic, was on his way to school, in September 2017, inside a commercial tricycle in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when a shot fired from a soldier’s rifle pierced through the tricycle, killed a female passenger, and then hit him on the leg.
Mr Madubuezi, 28, told PREMIUM TIMES he was on his way to write exams when the incident which has shattered his life happened.
The tricycle rider took him to the hospital. He was losing so much blood on the road. The first hospital he was taken to, requested a deposit of N800,000. Mr Madubuezi did not have anything near such an amount of money, so he was moved out of the hospital, still inside the ill-fated tricycle.
The second hospital did not have any vacant bed space.
The public hospital, the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital which had the capacity to offer effective treatment at a relatively cheaper cost was unfortunately shut down at the time due to doctors’ strike.
Mr Madubuezi was finally taken to a private hospital where he had to wait till the university teaching hospital resumed operations. By then his leg had deteriorated and became “dead”, leaving him with only one option – amputation.
“My mother borrowed over N1.5 million from people to pay for my medical bills,” Mr Madubuezi said. “She runs a small restaurant”.
Mr Madubuezi said he lost his father a long time ago.
Rather than help from the military, Mr Madubuezi said he got telephone calls from people who were threatening him for going to radio stations to talk about what happened to him.
It took the Nigerian army about a year to respond to a petition from Mr Madubuezi’s lawyer.
The army in their response said the soldiers were deployed to protect a private company, Stalling Oil Company in Port Harcourt, but some person named Mr Amadi “illegally procured” their services “to settle a fracas at his Bet9Ja shop”.
The army’s letter, dated January 2, 2020, was signed by E.A. Aladeniyi, a brigadier general, on behalf of the chief of army staff.
The soldiers’ conduct was “highly unprofessional”, the army said in the letter. It added that a soldier has been charged and remanded by a court martial.
The letter did not mention the name of the soldier.
“The Nigerian Army cannot be vicariously liable for the actions of its personnel when they act on a frolic of their own,” the army concluded in the letter.
Mr Madubuezi, who said he has been battling with the feeling of suicide, now uses crutches to walk. “I feel sad with the response of the army,” he said. “I expected them to help me with a prosthetic leg, at least.”
He could no longer, at some point, continue to live in his residence where he was staying with his mother; he now stays with a male cousin within the city. “I just want to change the environment. I am trying to accept the new me,” he said.
“I have to rely on people to help me fetch water, do my laundry, go to the market. Life has been difficult.”
Mr Madubuezi’s lawyer, Oyebuchi Chinyere, is resident in Aba, Abia State, which makes it difficult for him to travel regularly to Port Harcourt, especially since he has been handling the case pro bono.
“I have advised him (Madubuezi) to look for a human rights lawyer in Port Harcourt, so they can go to court on this matter,” the lawyer said.