Barr Gloria Mabeiam Ballason is the Chief Executive Officer, House of Justice, a Law conglomerate located at Barnawa, Kaduna state, and is the Principal Partner MIVE LEGALS (Ballason Chambers). She holds a first degree in Law, a Masters in Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice, Masters in International Affairs and Strategic Studies and has in view a Masters in Law (LLM). She is a columnist, presenter and Human Rights Consultant. In this interview with Bomba DAUDA, Gloria Spoke extensively on human rights abuses in the country and the lack of awareness by Nigerians. She said the recent case her organization and others have been handling has led to the NDA management blaming a deceased cadet’s father. She also spoke on some other important national issues. Excerpts.
Can you please shed more light on House of Justice’s inner workings?House of Justice is a Law conglomerate that has four (4) organs – MIVE LEGALS (Ballason Chambers) which is the conventional Law firm that carries out litigation and corporate law services, the Molluma Yakubu Loma Centre for Medical Law, which deals exclusively with medical law cases and is the first centre in Africa and the third in the world. It was commissioned in November 2014 by Prof Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission to specifically deal with issues of medical negligence and mass atrocities in the medical field. The centre was named after a family friend, Bar. Molluma who did extensive work on Medical negligence but sadly died from it. We also have the House of Justice Multi-media where we do law on radio (House of Justice, Liberty Radio 91.7fm) and newspaper (Law & Society, formerly in Leadership Newspaper but now in Blueprint Newspaper). We are on various online platforms such as Facebook, twitter, instagram for various law & human rights based campaigns. House of Justice is now about to go up on African Magic channels. The fourth part is The Counseling Centre, which as the name implies, provides counseling services for matrimonial related issues, addiction, career and a range of socio-psychological issues to the end of crime prevention. This department has in addition to the ADR lawyers, trained counselors, psychologists and a psychiatrist. The overall theme of House of Justice is to find solutions in law, as in life, by ensuring that the Law becomes a living verb for society not just in punishment but in crime prevention as well.How has Molluma Yakubu Loma Centre for Medical Law been coping with the growing rates of medical negligence in the country?
Medical negligence in Nigeria is an epidemic, but that is only putting it mildly. At least one in every three medical recipients has suffered one form of medical negligence or its alternative. Quack doctors, poorly trained nurses, quack pharmacists or health assistants are the vectors. Then you have unlicensed drug sellers roaming our streets with expired and unprescribed drugs, the thousands of chemists in villages and suburban areas where people are butchered in the name of surgeries, deformed or sent to early graves because the people who run these ramshackles are not health experts but petty business people who nonetheless execute so much harm. It is a matrix of some sort. So yes, for many of these “chemists”, it is business; but so synonymous is it with the path to hell which is paved with good intentions.
Have victims taken due advantage of your services or the awareness level as regards medical negligence in law, especially in Northern Nigeria?
From November 2014, we have received over twenty (20) cases both from within and outside Kaduna. Sadly, after receiving these reports, the people disappear and never show up again. They often prefer to ‘forgive’ or charge it up as an ‘act of God’ that should be borne. Most of the cases are heinous and you wonder why people do not see the gravity in the issues. The boomerang effects on society are largely due to decisions that are not taken; and so you have this rife situation where our health system is ravished by an alarming rate of needless deformities and deaths with the attendant low life expectancy for Nigerians that in this day and age is an amazing 45; add that to tropical diseases, genetics, hereditary and lifestyle and you have an emerging picture of the multi barreled assassins that kill our people. As a country, we cannot have an improved health system if we do not hold perpetrators of medical malpractice to account and with the wealth of information and options available to us today, it is inexcusable to revel in ignorance or to take comfort in an ‘act of God’ which is, sadly, an indictment to a God who himself uses the carrot and stick approach to issues. Our Centre has however made in-routes with the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), particularly the Kaduna Chapter, and has presented seminar papers at their continuing education programmes. We are also engaging the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). We are hopeful that things would get better from here, assuming, not conceding, that people change deeply rooted behaviors and beliefs to accountability in the medical sector.
Recently, your organization in collaboration with other recognized Civil Society Organizations held a press conference/ Peaceful protest at the Secretariat of the Open Society Initiative in Abuja against the killing of Cadet Elshaddai Kwasu and the shooting of Haruna Gajere. What did you hope to achieve from that?
In a single sentence: Justice for the victims, the society and ironically; for the perpetrators. Let me expound. Cadet Elshaddai Dzishindung Kwasu was an 18-year old cadet who was pushed into Kangimi dam by a reckless and overzealous instructor in the course of training at the Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna. The boy died, his body could not be reclaimed by the Academy and so they got local fishermen who brought the boy out using a fishing hook! The short form of that story is that someone’s precious child and a fellow human being like you and I was killed and debased into a fish. The cadet’s father, Hon. Danladi Angulu Kwasu, a retired Wing Commander came up on our radio programme to express his grievance. We asked NDA to exercise their right to reply, next I got a letter from the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission saying we had not balanced our story. NDA deserves justice too so there should be a PR unit that should issue an official statement of NDA’s side of the story if they feel the story that is in the public domain is not the correct version, but that has not been done since March 2015 when the incident happened rather, NDA has engaged in blame trade on the victim’s father. In the second case, Haruna Gajere, a 33-year old banker was shot two years ago by a police bullet on the spinal cord and abandoned to a wheel chair. He is now paralyzed from the waist down, with two children to cater for and a 30-year old wife sentenced to a lifetime of care giving. The police have neither taken responsibility nor offered any assistance whatsoever to Haruna. No human deserves to be treated in such a manner. So, House of Justice began the Rights Ring the Gun campaign to say look, just because you have a gun does not give you license to disrespect human rights, the gun is circumscribed in rights. And House of Justice, along with Mr Anyakwee Nsirimovu of Institute for International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Barr Hauwa Evelyn Shekarau of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, Ezenwa Nwagwu of Say No Campaign Nigeria, Mr. Vincent Bodam of Gurara Forum, Hajiya Hauwa Dikko of Abantu for Development and Comrade Murtala Abubakar of Arewa Defense League, signed and addressed a press conference, unequivocal on the common purpose that impunity must not have the last word. We were hosted by Prof Chidi Odinkalu of the National Human Rights Commission and we presented the petition to him. We have also petitioned Senator Bukola Saraki, the President of the Senate and Hon Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and copied ten other members of the legislature, expressing the need for a bill for safety gadgets to be put in place in armed forces training. We need the families of Kwasu and Gajere to find justice, we want our society free from impunity and we want the perpetrators to face the law; that would be a triple win and a score for everyone.
Has there been any development or outcome from the military as a result of the petition to the NHRC?
From the Military? Not yet. From the NHRC, talks have begun with the police on Haruna Gajere’s matter.
Where do you intend to stop from these two unfortunate incidents?At House of Justice, we do not value the process more than the outcome. We shall stay on these issues until we find real solutions and we hope Elanza News, which is a Media outfit that has been doing a lot for the downtrodden and others will be around to report the conclusion of the matter.
What do you think medical practitioners in the country need to do to reduce the risk of negligence in their practice?
They must recognize as real the threats to ethical and viable medical practice in Nigeria and begin a thorough in-house cleansing. The physician certainly has to heal himself. On the other hand, medical practitioners need to see the world of opportunities available in enhanced medical practice not only for the practitioners, but for the society, when we do the necessary purging. Sick people who approach health facilities deserve to have value for their money and the requisite dignity of treatment as humans. I am a proponent to the end that the Hippocratic Oath should be more than a rote document but an enforceable treatise in a situation where there is a breach. The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria has to move beyond just regulating medical practice to flushing out the many threats to medical practice because the intention of the founding fathers of MDCN, I believe, was not only to regulate practitioners but to clean the fields. Furthermore, the rivalry within the health sector needs to give way to inter-disciplinary cooperation in the fight against the ills in medical practice. Clearly, the times also speak to the imperative for other medical practitioners to stop jostling for the ‘Doctor’ title if they are not medical doctors. Practitioners should be comfortable in their sphere of calling otherwise when they act as doctors and there emerge fall outs from such unethical maneuverings, then they should be found culpable for medical malpractice as opposed to the consultant who is the team leader. Medical institutions, medical practitioners and medical law experts need also to collaborate with our Centre because together we can push for the change that we want to see.