When Ifeanyi Okorocha, a machine operator with Therapeutic Laboratories Nigeria Limited, set out for work on March 1, 2012, he was full of life and spirit. But his joy was cut short in the afternoon of the fateful day when the company’s industrial machine chopped off his fingers and damaged other parts of his arm.
The accident led to his journey to the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos. Okorocha, who said the accident occurred about 1.45pm while mixing water with powder, accused the company of abandoning him when he needed assistance most.
The machine operator said after two weeks at the hospital, his company, located at 372, Ikorodu Road, Maryland, Lagos, asked the doctor to discharge him. But it was learnt that the doctor disagreed and insisted that Okorocha needed corrective surgery, warning that any hasty attempt to discharge him would worsen his condition. He also said since the incident, the company had stopped his salary, adding that this had compounded his problem.
Okorocha, who spoke with PUNCH Metro in a voice laden with anguish said, “On March 1, 2012, about 1.45pm when I was adding water to the powder, my gloves became wet and slippery. After the process, I wanted to open the mixer from the bottom with my right hand when my left hand slipped and fell into the running machine.
“None of my colleagues could come and help me while I was shouting for help because they were scared. So, I had to switch off the machine myself and pulled out my hand at the same time. After pulling out my hand, I noticed two of my fingers had been cut off and I also broke my arm.“My supervisor rushed me to the company’s private hospital at Ikeja. From there, I was taken to Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi. But after two weeks at the hospital, the company said I should be discharged. “However, the doctor refused. The company stopped paying for my medical bills before the hospital went on strike. After the strike, I went back to the hospital, but I was asked to pay before I could be attended to.” But the Administration Manager, Therapeutic Laboratories, Mr. Lawal Ebenezer, said Okorocha was telling lies.
Ebenezer said he was not in a position to say whether the company had stopped his salary or not, nevertheless, he said Okorocha was ungrateful to say he had been abandoned by the company. The Admin Manager said, “He cannot say that before me. When the hospital was on strike, the company said I should arrange for a private hospital for him. I was supposed to go and pay some money only to be told he had left the hospital. When I called his line, it indicated it was switched off. “For him (Okorocha) to use the word ‘abandonment’ is a wrong expression. We did not abandon him. As for his salary, I can’t talk about that. But for the treatment, I can say he did not say the truth.”
Counsel for the family of Okorocha, Mr. Silas Udoh, in a letter addressed to the company’s Managing Director, alleged that the accident occurred as a result of the firm’s negligence. He, therefore, demanded N25m as compensation for Okorocha, failing which his client would take a legal action. The letter reads in part, “We are informed that Mr. Ifeanyi Okorocha had his two major fingers cut off by your industrial machine and as well damaged other parts of his arm and body due to your company’s negligence
“Based on the above mentioned facts, we have the instruction of our client to demand from your company the sum of N25m as compensation for the damage occasioned by your company.”