- Adobe Tricia Navpani
- Special for BBC News
Enya Ekbe, a 26-year-old medical student. He cried anatomy class after he was disturbed by the corpse he had to analyze.
This is not the reaction of an inexperienced young man. He vividly recalled that afternoon when he was around three desks with one body with three students at the University of Calabar in Nigeria seven years ago.
In the next few minutes, he screamed and ran away. The corpse he is about to dismember is that of his friend Divinity. “We go to clubs together,” he told me. “There were two bullet holes in the right side of his chest.”
Oifo was one of several students who ran behind Ana Ekbe and cried outside. “Most of the corpses we used at school had bullets. I felt so bad when I realized that some of those people might not be the real culprits,” Ana said.
She recalled that one morning a police van full of bloody bodies was parked near the morgue.
Ekbe sent a message to Divin’s family, who went to different police stations after he and three friends were arrested by security agents on their way back from the night. The family finally recovered his body.
In a written testimony before a court panel in Enu State, 36-year-old Setha Nnamani said she helped security agents dispose of the bodies of those who had been tortured or hanged.
He said he was asked to load three bodies into a van overnight – this task is called “ambulance service” in prison parlance. Police then handcuffed him inside the vehicle and took him to the University Hospital of the University of Nigeria (UNTH), where Nannamani dropped the bodies. They were taken away by a mortuary assistant.
Nannamani told me, then he was threatened by the same fate.
The mortuary at the private hospital Aladdin in the southeastern city of Avery says it has stopped accepting the bodies of suspected offenders because police have rarely notified the identity or relatives of the deceased.
Every few years, it is used to fill the morgue with the costs of placing the bodies in an unwanted condition, with the government granting permission for mass burials.
“Sometimes the police tried to force us to accept the bodies, but we insisted that they be taken to a government hospital,” said Ugona Amamasi, the morgue’s administrator. “Private mortuaries are not allowed to donate bodies to medical schools, but the government can,” he added.
The relatives were left in the dark
Experienced lawyer, Fred Onobia said relatives have the right to collect the bodies of criminals who have been legally hanged. “If no one comes after a while, the bodies will be sent to university hospitals,” the lawyer said.
But the situation is exacerbated by the illegal execution because relatives cannot find out about the deaths or find the bodies, he said. After all, Ekbe’s friend’s family was only able to bury him properly by accident.
The Association of Anatomists of Nigeria is now pushing for a change in the law to ensure that, in addition to family consent, corpses receive full historical records of bodies donated to schools. This will create an incentive for people to donate their body to medicine.
According to Ekbe, he was so shocked to see his friend’s body that he imagined the deity standing at the door whenever he tried to enter the anatomy room and left the school for several weeks. He graduated a year later from his classmates and now works in a lab.
The Divine family was able to evict some of the officers involved in the murder – many feel that justice is not enough, but it is better than what many Nigerians have experienced, its loved ones may have been victims of police violence and ended up in medical schools across the country.
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