​Buried but not forgotten: NYSC explains how 22-year old corps member died unattended to

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Diagnosed of Aplastic Anemia while serving his father land and with the inability to provide N30m needed for bone marrow transplant, Oluwatimilehin Obafemi Paul lost the battle to the terminal disease when he breathed his last on the 7th of June 2017. In this report, BABATUNDE ALAO and TODIMU OGUNADE spoke with the authorities of the National Youth Service Corps and brother to the deceased to dig deep into circumstances around his death.

A graduate of Industrial Chemistry from the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) Oluwatimilehin Obafemi Paul was initially posted to Kebbi State for the November 2016 batch “B” Stream I service year but took ill and was redeployed to Oyo State.

The story changed when sometimes in January 2017, when he was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, a disease that damages the bone marrow.

Its causes include exposure to certain chemicals, drugs, radiation and sometimes associated with exposure to toxins such as benzene.

Other causes are use of some drugs such as chloramphenicol, which is used to treat bacterial infections, and gold compounds used to treat rheumatoid arthritis; autoimmune disorders, in which the immune system begins attacking healthy cells, may involve stem cells in your bone marrow; viral infections that affect bone marrow may play a role in the development of aplastic anemia in some people, among others.

Aplatic Anemia is accompanied by symptoms which include, fatigue, shortness of breath with exertion, rapid or irregular heart rate, prolonged bleeding from cuts, skin rash, dizziness, headache, among others.

Nathaniel Obafemi, an elder brother to Oluwatimilehin who attended the same institution with him and was posted to the same state explains: “Though the disease did not come up before he was posted to camp, yet one cannot really say that it came up during camp because he never complained of any disease. He never even visited the school clinic for once.”

Nathaniel, few days to the death of his brother, took to the social media in May to generate fund, a tremendous amount of effort that generated some few thousand naira above N5m.

To further generate enough money, if not all, Nathaniel on the 1st of June sent a message to the Honourable Minister of Health, Prof. Folorunso Adewole.

His message to the minister was: “Please sir, the Doctor said we need between 25 and 30 million naira. Please sir, we will send proof from the doctor’s report. Please sir, have mercy on us.”

Nathaniel’s message to the health minister

Unfortunately, his message never got any reply until a call was put through to the helmsman in the Health Ministry.

Nathaniel further lamented the role played by the Ministry of Health in a conversation with the minister, as made available to SUNSHINE HERALD.

“I told the Minister of Health that a young Nigerian was sick and all he said was that and I quote, ‘you people are not serious’ all because my sister had earlier sent him a message stating we needed N25million for the surgery and I called stating we needed N30million.

“Meanwhile, the doctors report stated 25-30million naira. He didn’t even donate 5kobo.”

Nathaniel accompanied each of the messages sent to the ‘constituted authority’ with pictures of his brother lying helplessly and hopelessely on a bed at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan on several occasions, all of which were not convincing enough for the health minister.

Suffered in the hands of policy 

“So many corps members have been dying and it is not as if someone has been somewhere killing them but it is a terminal disease,” these were the words of Oyo state NYSC Assistant Director Corps Welfare, Mr. Deji Jegede.

The NYSC official who insisted on strict adherence to the policy of the scheme stated: “When a corps member is sick, the corps member will be treated in the hospital.

“After the treatment, the corps member will now write for the re-imbursement of the medical bill.

“If it is less than N2000, the state secretariat can afford to pay to the corps member but any amount more than N2000 the corps member will compile the original receipts with the doctor’s prescription and forward to Abuja for re-imbursement.

On how Oluwatimilehin was caught up in the midst of a policy until his death, Jegede while speaking with SUNSHINE HERALD said, “I told the mother when the boy was lying critically ill in the hospital.

“I told her the policy of NYSC. Whatever means this corps member could be treated I wouldn’t stop the woman.

“On a more serious note, NYSC did what we were supposed to do in line with the policy.”

When contacted on phone by SUNSHINE HERALD, the Director General of NYSC, Brigadier General Sulaiman Kazaure, stated the policy for forwarding any form of complaints any corps member has.

“We have a channel of communication. It is the Coordinator that will communicate to me not the corps member or anybody,” Kazaure said.

“Somebody cannot just call me directly because of a corps member. The state Coordinator will write to the Director of Corps Welfare who will in turn brief me.

“The state Coordinator has no right not to inform the Director of Corps Welfare who will inform me. It is a must. It is a statutory duty. They must do it.

“I don’t think any corps member actually contacted the Oyo State Coordinator.”

Loved  by brother, even  after  death

Nathaniel Obafemi graduated from the same institution as his brother and were both posted to Kebbi State for the one-year mandatory NYSC.

With different posts on social media, Nathaniel expressed adulation to his brother.

In one, Nathaniel wrote: “My heart bleeds for my fallen brother. I have failed you. I should have stopped serving my father land and just concentrate on taking care of you.

“NATIONAL YOUTH SREVICE CORPS failed you and I also failed you. You got injured and they did not do anything until you died. Your mother misses you.”

Nathaniel has initiated a foundation, OBAFEMI OLUWATIMILEHIN PAUL FOUNDATION with the goal of helping re-broadcast medical cases that need urgent attention.

Meanwhile, the NYSC authority has hinted that the family members of the family would be given a cheque of I million naira.

According to the Oyo State Assistant Director, Corps Welfare, “There is a health insurance for 1 million naira for any corps member that dies. It is a standard policy.

As the corps member has died, I have already collected the original copy of his death certificate that we’ll forward to Abuja and the cheque will be sent to the next of kin of the deceased Corps member.

Oluwatimilehin Paul has since been buried on the 14th of June, 2017 at Iyara cemetery, Ibadan, Oyo state with NYSC footing some the bills of the funeral rites including the embalmment of the body purchase of coffin.


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