SALIFU USMAN captures the ghastly circumstance that turned Mr Idiege James, an employee of Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja, from being a productive able-bodied young man to that of an abandoned invalid.
Life may never remain the same again for Idiege James, following the tragic incident that resulted in him losing his left hand in the services of Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja, where he worked as a launderer. The 35-year-old father of two is currently battling hard to adjust to his present condition as he now tries to use one hand to do everything.
James, who is now with his deformity as a one-hand-man, has been greatly frustrated given that he was able to do all manners of labour or work with both hands and earn a living, to now being an unproductive physically challenged in his youthful age in life.
Although, it has been two years and a month since the unfortunate incident happened, the Cross River State-born is still going through unbearable pains from the crude loss of his arm in his place of work.
He alleged that his employer, Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja, where he worked as a launderer for a paltry monthly salary of N27, 000, has even abandoned him, having since stopped paying his salary and other allowances.
Recalling the incident that led to his present condition, James said, “In the laundry department where I worked, there was an old out-of-date ironing machine which has since been set aside (abandoned) and removed out of the laundry department long before I was employed on the ground that the machine was not only outdated but has fallen into serious disrepair. But, owing to the expansion of the hotel’s lodging facilities from 88 to 209 rooms and to meet up the demand for laundry services by customers, the hotel decided to repair the old abandoned ironing machine instead of buying a new one.
“So, on the 25th April, 2014, an engineer showed up at the laundry premised while I was on duty and they brought in the old ironing machine purportedly repaired. My shift leader, Sunday Egbonu, then asked me to test-run the machine but I insisted that it is the engineer, who has technical expertise of how the machine works that was supposed to test-run it first and not me.
“All my efforts to convince him why the engineer and not I should test-run the machine first proved abortive. Innocently, I obeyed his command and started to test-run the machine and I carefully placed my finger on the operational buttons on the already hot ironing machine but to the chagrin of my life, the hand placement support plate of the machine broke inward and my left hand was swiftly drawn into the burner blades of the machine and it instantly burnt my left hand, leaving the palm with the bones only. I screamed in pains, calling for help. “Everyone who ran up and saw my hand stuck, with blood spilling all over the hall, screamed in fear and rushed out to call for help. Due to the intensity of the burn and element of the electric shock, I was in coma and was immediately rushed to the National Hospital, Abuja by members of the staff where I was taken to the emergency unit.
“I underwent two serious hand surgery at the National Hospital but to no avail and the hospital was desirous to refer me to a better equipped hospital outside Nigeria. Soon after I was admitted at the National Hospital’s emergency unit but before the first surgery was carried out, the hospital refused to continue with treatment for seven days on the ground that my employer: Reiz Continental Hotel failed to pay for the previous one or deposited money for the next level of treatment. But the hotel later paid the bills and may be deposited some money with them hospital to continue with the treatment and surgery was carried out.
“Sadly, due to the degree of the damage to my hand, the doctors had to cut out flesh, tendons and arteries from my lower abdomen, the right arm, left leg and the ankle region of the right leg to make-up and eventually made-up the almost dead and lifeless left hand of mine.
“Before the second surgery, the hotel again stopped payment of the hospital bills for all the treatments and was advised by the hospital to help myself out to avoid amputation of my left hand by seeking medical attention elsewhere, preferably outside Nigeria where medical treatment might be cheaper and affordable.”
According to James, he took the advice of the medical experts seriously and temporarily left the National Hospital. But considering the fact he has no money to fall back on for any form of treatment, he however took his fate into his hands, and wound up in a lower level medical centre in Mararaba, Nasarawa State where he was told bluntly that they lack medical knowledge of which treatment to be administered on him.
He further stated that not minding his miserable and ugly looks, he left the Mararaba medical centre, and headed to the Reiz Continental Hotel the next day where his immediate boss (his shift leader) took every step to avoid meeting him. He took his matter to the hotel’s personnel manager as well as the general manager for attention and demand for further medical attention at the National Hospital but to no avail.
“I wrote several request letters to the hotel, demanding for better medical attention, but they yielded nothing to till day. The most worrisome development and show of total disregard for human life is that they invited me to the office and told me to resume work at the same laundry department where I sustained the yet-to-be treated gory accident. But, considering the fact I am not fit to work anywhere else vis-à-vis the fear that I might be dismissed from work or they might stop pay my paltry salary sum, I resumed work and strenuously worked with one hand for the first time in my life.
“On the 15th May, 2016, I wrote another letter to the personnel manager to redeploy me from laundry department to any place where I can function effectively with my one hand, but the request was rejected by the head of my department, claiming that I have since been healed but just pretending.
“So, because of that, I was left with no option other than go about with my dying left hand. My only hope now is in the Merciful God,” James said.
James, who still undergoing excruciating pains, also alleged that Reiz Continental Hotel in an attempt destroy or cover the obvious fact that the ironing machine that almost killed him was malfunctional, quickly removed the machine and bought in a new efficient modern full options version, shortly after the incident.
When our correspondent visited Reiz Continental Hotel, Central District, Abuja, one Mr Raymond Opara, who claimed to be the general manager of the hotel, expressed regret over the tragic incident but described as untrue, claims by the victim that he was abandoned by the hotel. Rather, he labeled the victim is an “ingrate.”
“As soon as the incident happened, we did everything to make James comfortable, including footing all his medical bills and more. I must confess that I am not happy with the turnout of things after all what we did for him. For him to say that we abandoned him is unfortunate and it really shows how ungrateful human beings are. We paid for everything National Hospital asked for. We spent millions. You can go there and ask. The evidences are there at the National Hospital for anyone to see and we have all the receipts of the payments with us.
“I expected him to be grateful for all that the company did him, even though it was his fault and negligence that led to tragic accident. All money was paid without any argument, including his salary and other allowances.
“I visited him at the hospital more than twice and so also the rest of management staff. I personally, whenever I visited the hospital to see him and do give out some money for his personal needs.”
Asked why James was compelled to test run the antiquated machine without a proper repairs, Opara insisted that there was no malfunctioning machine, saying all James needed to have done was to make use of safety gadgets provided to him and his colleagues or stop the machine instead of dragging with the electric machine. “In fact, this is the first incident that has occurred since the inception of this hotel. We don’t have any faulty ironing machine. All our machines are full functional.”
Collaborating Opara’s position, the personnel manager of the hotel, Mrs Erica said, James is still a staff of the hotel and has even resumed work after his treatment but has stopped to come work on his since March this year, 2017. James, she said, has already been redeployed from the laundry department to where it only requires him take record of the daily job done.