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A physician’s professional odyssey


A physician’s professional odyssey
By Adelani Adepegba
Published: Wednesday, 13 Aug 2008
For Akunne who may spend a long time behind the bars if found guilty on a 20-count charge of child trafficking and procuring under-aged girls for sexual slavery, retribution for violating the physician’s oath of office may have come at last. Adelani Adepegba writes
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A physician’s professional odyssey
A lay man may not know the content of the Hippocratic Oath medical doctors swear to, but it is understood that physicians are meant to heal and not to kill or cause harm to patients.
The physician swears, “I will never do harm to anyone or give a woman a pessary to procure abortion and in every house where I come, I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves.”
The physician concludes the oath with, “If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.”
For Dr. Ken Akunne currently standing trial before Justice Abdul Kafarati of the Federal High Court, Enugu, the retribution for violating the oath may have come at last.
Akunne is facing a 20-count charge of child trafficking and procuring under-aged girls for sexual slavery. He was also alleged to have sold off a two-day-old baby, and if found guilty, he might spend the rest of his life behind the bars, because three of the charges carry life sentences.
The accused was arrested by the men of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps on June 9, 2008, during a raid on his Uzoma Maternity Clinic, located on Zik Avenue, Enugu, where about 25 pregnant girls between ages 16 and 22 and a newborn baby were rescued.
The Enugu State Commandant of the NSCDC, Mr. Desmond Agu, said that the maternity centre was placed under surveillance, following a tip-off but moves to arrest Akunne were almost frustrated by policemen who attacked the NSCDC officers for trespassing on their jurisdiction.
About five NSCDC officers were hospitalised, following the injuries they sustained from the assault on them by policemen from Uwani Divisional Police Station who were trying to shield Akunne from arrest.
This suggests that the man may have had protection for his operations which started in 1999, when the clinic was established.
The accused has been having a running battle with the state government which had been trying to close down the clinic. He once dragged the government before the court to enforce his fundamental rights on the planned closure.
Prosecutors allege that Akunne may have been engaging in the nefarious acts for long, as he had been twice arraigned in court for rape and other sexually related offences.
In 2004, he was arraigned along with two others before an Enugu High Court, on a four-count charge of illegally detaining one Ebere Nwafor (19) against her will and having carnal knowledge of her without her consent. The accused was granted bail and the case was adjourned indefinitely for the state’s Attorney-General’s opinion which never came.
In 2006, he was arrested for forcefully detaining three children under the age of 12 with intent to steal them, and also one Lilian Ejimofor, with intent to have carnal knowledge of her against her will. Akunne was arraigned on a four-count charge before an Enugu South Magistrate Court, where he was granted bail. It was while he was on bail that NSCDC men raided his clinic. He is presently in prison custody and has been fighting to secure his bail through his counsel, an application the National Agency for Trafficking in Persons stoutly opposed.
Akunne’s case illustrates the poor shape of the criminal justice system in the country. It also exposes the unsavoury practices which go without check by the appropriate authorities in the medical field.
Despite being arraigned for rape and other criminal acts, Akunne still practices medicine and carries on his trade.
The Chairman of the Enugu branch of the Nigeria Medical Association, Dr. Ken Agwuna, alleged that Akunne was not a member of the association as he had not been paying his N500 monthly due.
Agwuna, a radiologist, stated that the NMA could not move against him or intervene in his matter as he was not a recognised member of the association in the state, noting that it was only the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council that could take disciplinary action against him.
Such actions, he said, include the withdrawal of his licence which empowers him to run a clinic and practice as a physician.
The Enugu Zonal coordinator of NMDC, who refused to disclose his name, said that he was not aware of the case against Akunne, adding that his office could not take any measure against the accused until it got a letter from either the NMA or any member of the public.
As Akunne stands in the dock to account for his alleged crimes, it is hoped that this will beam the searchlight on the professional misconduct of trust of those entrusted with the wellbeing of the society.

2008 Aug 13