UPTH Womb Removal Saga:
Rights Group Demands Case Transfer Over Police Bias
By Ola Kay
There is a simmering disquiet over what appears like a confidence trick for one who had hoped to get justice in a case involving improper medical procedure in which a patient at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, UPTH, claimed her womb was removed without her consent, even as a senior police officer in the case may have compromised allegedly.
A human rights group based in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, Lawyers Watch For Justice International Initiative that waded in, in defense of its client has fingered a “gross lack of due diligence”, in an investigation of the matter involving its client and is now demanding withdrawal and reassignment of the matter to another police officer, following allegation of bias, intimidation and harassment on the part of a police Superintendent, Supol Rufus of the State Criminal Investigation Department, Port Harcourt
According to a petition, a copy of which was made available to journalists by the human rights body, and copied to relevant government authorities, states: “We hold the brief of Rukayat Afolabi (‘Our Client’) on whose instruction and interest we write, on the issue of lack of due diligence in the conduct of investigations of a complainant of the removal of her womb, without her knowledge and consent during a surgery conducted at the University of Harcourt Teaching Hospital,(UPTH) Port Harcourt Rivers State.”
The statement, signed by Ikechukwu Richard Ogbokwu, an Associate Solicitor at the human rights organization, informed that its client reported the case of the removal of her womb without her consent on the first day in the month of February, 2019 at the UPTH.
Following her travails, the matter was said to have been “referred to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Rivers State, after all previous attempts made at arresting the suspects were compromised.”
The group regretted that a Superintendent of Police, Supol Rufus, who led the team allegedly failed to employ expertise and diligence in the conduct of investigations into the case through “bias and gross lack of due diligence, the group anchored its conviction on an alleged statement by the officer who blamed “lack of resource for proper conduct of investigations of the complaints”, even as the human rights body accused him of depending on its client, an indigent complainant, to fund his investigation of the case.
Other accusations leveled at the lead investigator include, leaving the issue at stake, which bothers on “the case that deals with the unauthorized removal of the womb…..during surgery (He is dexterous in arresting a traditional birth attendant who was not part of the surgery), while he pays blind eyes to the team involved in the surgery, who acted in gross negation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Medical and Dental Practitioners in Nigeria.’’
But of particular interest to the human rights group was the alleged harassment meted out to its client on 9 August, 2019, at about 6;30 pm by the investigation team leader, Supol Fufus.
The matter of intimidation took place in a telephone conversation, which according to Lawyers Watch For Justice, the police Superintendent told Rukayat that a strong case was hanging on her head by the management of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and that “she might be heading for jail due to the nature of evidence tendered against her.” This the body described as “retraumatizing our client, who is already traumatized, despondent and depressed with baseless lies calculated and concocted to intimidate her.”
But the human rights group stated that the actions by the senior police officer had resulted in great hardship and trauma and indeed had made her(the client) to lose faith in the entire process of getting justice in her case. This according to the petition informed the need to reassign the case to another officer for fairness to prevail in the matter.
The rights group appealed to authorities concerned to ensure the withdrawal and reassignment of the case “to another police officer for proper investigation and prosecution of all culprits involved.”
Meanwhile, the body had sent copies of the petition to the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State and the Deputy Commissioner, State Criminal Investigation Department.
This is apart from copying other relevant authorities , including the Inspector General of Police ,Ministry of Women Affairs, Abuja, Chairman Senate Committee on Women Affairs, that of the House of Reps on Women Affairs. Others include Rivers State Ministry of Women Affairs and the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Abuja
Lawyers Watch For Justice International Initiative is a human rights organization that protects the rights of all victims of human rights violation.