Oct 27, 2013 – Dana Airline Abandons Pastor, Victim Who Lost Sight To Lagos Crash
Kehinde Kareem Okikiolu, a pastor, was on an evangelisation mission at Iju-Isaga on the outskirts of Lagos on June 3, 2012 when the Dana Airline’s Boeing MD-83, operating flight 992 unexpectedly lost its two engines and came down, crashing into a building. 163 people including everyone on board died in the crash. Several people on the ground were injured with some to carry the scars for the rest of their lives.
In this category is Okikiolu whose sight went with the crash . He also claims to be now battling a lung disease on account of the accident. He spoke to Taiwo Abiodun.
He exudes confidence, the type you would not ordinarily expect from someone life has played a cruel fate on. What with a handsome, chubby face, hidden behind a pair of dark glasses.And a baritone voice too.
But then pain seizes the eye sockets as he makes to open the eyes for the reporter to have a look. Suddenly he jerks and yells: “Is this how I will continue to live? If I die , God will ask the airline of my blood.”
He sighs to regain his composure, and begins to recall his once active routine. “I used to be very active, resourceful and strong. I, who used to pray for powerful commissioners? Here I am, suffering. I have no food to eat. This is the miserable condition Dana Airline has brought into my life. It is terrible.”
He lets out a big cough and remembers it’s time to take his medication, stretching out a hand to find it. Pastor Okikiolu says to the reporter whilst holding out the plastic container: “yes , I have found it. This is what I have been taking: it is honey. Since I’ve no money to buy drugs again I’ve been taking this honey to subdue the cough.”Another cough.
The honey and some powdery substances were ‘recommended’ to him by some good Samaritans . “That’s all I can afford. At least, I cannot kill myself,” he said in his one room apartment.
Delving into the genesis of his ordeal which he says has now robbed him of doing what he loves doing – evangelising – Okikiolu said : “ I was bubbling and agile before the plane crash occurred. The doctor said I inhaled a lot of smoke from the burning plane. My eyes were damaged and now I’ve been abandoned by the airline. They have been tossing me up and down and failed no pay me any compensation.”
On this particular day ,he had not had his breakfast.But more painful to him was that his daughter could not go to school having been turned back for her inability to pay her fees.
He laments:”Look at me , I had nothing to eat this morning.My daughter cannot go to school as she was sent back from school over fees . I have exhausted my drugs.I just hope God will send some assistance.I cannot work , I cannot go out to evangelise again. This is what the airline has reduced me to .I’ve been rendered useless at 55.”
He recalls that on the fateful day he was returning from a family he had gone to pray for at Iju when he saw the aircraft crashing into a building in the neighbourhood.
“It was a Black Sunday. I was coming from a family at Adewole Street ,Iju where I had gone to pray for them . I saw this big aircraft crashing into the building that I ran into.The next thing was that I found myself on the hospital bed 48 hours after .
“In fact , I didn’t know how I got to the hospital until Mr Jacky Hatiramani the Managing Director of Dana Airline and the Lagos state governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola came to see me at the hospital . I was first taken to Osuntuyi Medical Center.From there I was transferred to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) where I was hospitalised and had my eyes operated on .I stayed there for some weeks before I was discharged from the hospital”, he said ,coughing intermittently.
Asked why he prays for others and could not pray to avert the disaster that befell him, he laughed and said: “ Oh , yes I pray for people and God answers their prayers. He also answers my prayer.If not, I would have been dead by now.What if I had died? It is God who has protected me up to this state, if not I would have been dead by now. I have no family to assist me , even those I used to pray for did the little they could and left me .I cannot force anybody to assist me “
LASUTH in an August 6,2012 letter with reference number SUB/ LASUTH/0057 on Okikiolu’s condition,said: “The above named clergyman sustained head injury, right eye trauma and inhalational lung injury following the Dana plane crash.He was subsequently managed at LASUTH with sustained neurological improvement .Presently , he will need to be followed up in view of the inhalational injury”. The letter was signed by a Consultant/ Neuro Surgeon, Dr O.E Idowu
Okikiolu claims he is not in a position to seek further treatment in the hospital because he has no money. “It was Babatunde Fashola that footed the bill from Sotunyi Medical Centre.They operated my eyes, I had brain scan and many other tests,all footed by the governor.The governor has done his best but what is the airline doing?”
Okikiolu’s wife,Dasola,said the family has been living from hand to mouth since the accident. “In fact ,we have been abandoned , we have nobody to cater for us .A lawyer came here sometime ago and said the company is not ready to pay us compensation while some said they are dribbling us and we need to report to the State government of their lackadaisical attitude .We are dying gradually and we have a lot of debts to pay”.
She continued :” we are owing two years house rent.The landlord has served us a quit notice and by the end of this month we would be thrown out of this place.”
She related how news of her husband’s fate was broken to her. “ He,as usual, went out that day to evangelise to win souls for Christ. I was waiting for him to return home when I received a call that my husband had an accident.His eyes were later operated on while the doctor conducted a series of tests on him .He cannot breath properly.Soon after the accident happened, he developed cough and since he has exhausted his drugs ,he now uses takes honey as prescribed by friends .We have no family members to turn to.”
Asked what she does for a living , she replied:”I go out every morning as house maid,earning N250 daily and this, money does not take me anywhere .
She believes some people in Dana are blocking compensation for her husband but does not understand why.
“Each time my lawyer goes there, he is turned back and not attended to,” she alleged .
Okikiolu is desperate to have his sight restored. “ I want my eyesight to be restored.I want to go to the hospital for further treatment.I want to pay my house rent and feed my family for I don’t want to be a burden on anybody again.And if God permits, I want to build a church for God and be worshiping him so as to continue to be wining souls for Christ.
“That is the cause I’ve decided to pursue in life.But some people are cheating me because I have nobody. I know I have God.”, he said as he burst into tears again .
When the Public Relations Officer , Tony Usidam of Dana Airline was contacted he told The Nation that he would check with the company’s insurance company.
He promised to call back.He has not and efforts to reach him again have been unsuccessful.
[Report by Taiwo Abiodun]