Yetunde Ajani-Raji is a 47-year-old amputee and the widow of late Dr Ajani Adeniyi Raji, a onetime head at the Department of Haematology, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Teaching Hospital. After losing her husband in an accident in 2012, the teaching hospital is yet to pay his salary arrears and entitlements. She laments in this interview with VERA ONANA.
Can you tell us about the accident that changed your life?
My husband, late Dr Ajani Raji, worked for LAUTECH teaching hospital and was the Head of Department, Haematology unit. He was on a study leave approved by the institution and had a course running in the University College Hospital, London. He travelled to Saudi Arabia in 2012 and on one of my visits to him; we had an accident on 31 May, 2012. My husband lost his life as a result of that accident. I survived but with severe injuries. I lost body parts to the accidents. My left leg was amputated, I had to get a metal implant for my right leg from the hip downward, dislocation of shoulders, my wrist and I have a pipe in my right eye till this moment.
All this happened in 2012 due to the same accident that claimed my late husband’s life. I was hospitalized for 23 months and didn’t have access to our three children because they were denied entry to the same country they visited right before the accident on the premise that their father was no more and I was hospitalized so there would be no one to take care of them.
How has life been?
It has been rough, lonely and really dry but all in all, I give thanks to God almighty because I still have life and I think that is something to be thankful for and I believe that there must be a purpose for this life.
What is your grievance against LAUTECH Teaching Hospital?
My husband before his death was working as a consultant in the teaching hospital and a lecturer in the university. When I got back to the country after his death, I wrote to the University as well as the teaching hospital to claim his entitlements. The university did not respond to me on time because they claimed they had their own financial issues but when they saw my condition, Professor Gbadegesin took up the matter and I was settled in 2014, late 2014.
However, the teaching hospital has not been forth coming. Up until this moment, I have been going to the LAUTECH teaching hospital Osogbo. I have written series of letters, lawyers have written series of letters to the teaching hospital but they are yet to respond. Recently, I called the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Professor Lasisi, who happens to be my late husband’s colleague to inquire if anything has been done about my requests so far. I actually dropped two letters with the CMD personally but he asked me to write another letter requesting that the money should be paid.
Meanwhile, to the best of my knowledge and I have evidence to prove it, the hospital is still owing my late husband salary arrears of almost one year. When I contacted the chief accountant two years ago, he was insisting that my late husband had been paid. I asked him to check their records but he said I should go to the bank and retrieve my late husband’s statement of account. I didn’t have it in the statement of account. After that encounter, he refused to say anything and he stopped picking my calls.
After that event, I received two anonymous calls telling me that I was troubling the system by asking for my late husband’s money because the person that worked for the money was no more. The callers asked me what I wanted to do with the money. The callers were undisclosed but I told them that I was not afraid and that nobody could threaten me. I told them that whoever was calling should reveal his identify or the call would be traced and that was the end of the anonymous calls.
When did you get those calls?
I actually got those calls in late 2014 to early 2015, after I had initiated the process to retrieve my late husband’s entitlements. I travelled to Osogbo twice after those calls. When I met Professor Lasisi in 2016, he explained to me that the institution was under crisis with the state government and most of the workers there were yet to be paid. I remained calm. However, when I called him recently, he told me to write another letter of request. I was shocked. I have been writing letters for years, so I asked him on what basis would I be writing another letter. He told me that he got a different story from some people at the teaching hospital. So, I asked him if I could have an insight into the stories he has been told, maybe I could base the letter he is asking me to write on that but he disagreed, insisting that he could not disclose the information and it was confidential. I agreed to write the letter again and it was at that point I contacted Mr Ibrahim Lawal, a legal practitioner and he has assured me that he will take it up from there. I don’t want to personally write the letter again because I have been doing so all these years and nothing has happened. I think it will be better for the legal practitioners to handle it from now.
How long has this been going on?
For about five years now. The university has done as it should and has settled me but the hospital is the one that has done nothing. I have not got a penny from them. I just want them to prove with hard evidence if they do not owe my late husband as they are claiming. I want to see the evidence that they have paid him.
Are you certain that your late husband has not been paid?
I am certain and I have proof. I have the letter he wrote and up until March of 2012, the year he died, he called the chief accountant I was right there beside him. He even indicated in the letter he wrote that they should pay his colleague by handing over the cheque if they cannot pay him directly and that one would put it in his account.
How have you been coping?
One word, tough. It has been tough. Do you know what it is like for a widow without any backup with three grown children in my condition? My eldest just graduated from the University of Ibadan, he just finished serving two months ago. I have another son in the University of Ilorin and my last is in senior secondary school. So you can imagine what it is like when you don’t have your health and you have to put food on the table, pay bills running on a daily basis and still pay medical bills. I still have to visit the hospital, go for therapy. I live with pain, my daily life is pain. There are pains that can be endured and some that cannot be endured and I live with both every day of my life.
What is your lawyer saying? Is he optimistic?
The legal team will take it up with the teaching hospital. I just initiated the process Barrister Ibrahim.
How would you like the government to help you?
Before the accident, I didn’t know much about amputees. It has been tough but my issue got me interacting with people that have been in this situation for years. They were shocked about how I could still move around, wear my makeup and still look good in this condition. Some of them had not stepped out of their homes for years because they are ashamed. However, I let them realize that they didn’t put themselves in that situation and they have to keep going. I have this appeal for not just the government but every Nigerian, please do not look down on amputees. If there is anything the government can do to make their lives, our lives easier, I appeal to the government to do it. Personally, I have so many needs…finance is top on the list and I want my children to keep moving. I don’t want any break in their education and that is why I am agitating for the payment of my late husband’s unpaid salaries and entitlements. I am not working in this condition. Though I worked in the banking industry for a decade and left during the consolidation era. In 2006, I got into the fabric business, selling laces and jewelry until the accident in 2012 after which I lost everything I had. If my son who just finished serving doesn’t get a job, I would like for him to go for his master’s degree but how do I pay the bills?
Source: Tribune Newspaper