13th December, 2010
Even as familiar as I am with the intrigues and opportunism associated with what has become known as the Trovan Saga, I thought I had seen the worst in opportunism in the ways persons not even remotely affected by a tragedy have tried to line up to reap from the situation. I thought I had seen in the way these opportunists have sought to rubbish presages with otherwise impeccable credentials.
But now I must confess to being overawed by the extent to which these opportunists can go. Their actions not only beats the imagination, but passeth all understanding! I only wonder what other tricks they will come up with once we dispose of this one.
I am at a loss as to what the authors and instigators of the article titled â€œSuffering of Pfizer victims drags on – Families remain uncompensatedâ€ published in the Saturday, 04 December 2010 issue of Weekend Trust, hope to achieve.
To begin with, there is a subsisting injunction secured by Maisikeliâ€™s Trovan Victimsâ€™ Forum (TVF) restraining the Board of Trustees from paying out any compensation money. One would have expected the report to be an indictment of persons, under any guise but for selfish reasons, who use their positions to frustrate the fool-proof process, including a time-tested scientific approach that had been negotiated in a most civilized manner to guarantee a speedy redress of the suffering of the genuine patients of the Trovan trial.
But what do we find — an â€œinvestigativeâ€ report that, for its lack of balance and â€“ inevitably â€“ wrong conclusions, only succeeds in muddying the waters.
Inaccuracies are the ingredients with which wrong conclusions are baked. The article is full of them. I will briefly rebut these inaccuracies:
* A very simple piece of inaccuracy in the article is the claim that 217 were tested, while the actual figure is 196 â€“ even then only half of these were tested with the Trovan. The clinical trial was designed for 200 participants, but only 196 patients were actually tested.
* Another tissue of inaccuracy is the claim that the settlement agreement stated that all patients would receive compensation by October 15, 2009. No date was set for any compensation, as each patient would have to undergo DNA testing prior to any determination as to payment of any compensation.
* It is false to say that each patient was to be paid $175,000 when it was left to the discretion of the Board to determine how much was payable to each patient or their relatives.
* The settlement terms did not provide for any payment to the Federal Government of Nigeria beyond reimbursement for legal fees and expenses incurred by the Federal Government associated with the federal lawsuits, and pursuant to the settlement, the Federal Government’s counsel of record was paid. It is important to state quite clearly that there was no payment made to the Federal Government of Nigeria. Indeed former President Yarâ€™Adua wasnâ€™t disposed to seeking monetary compensation for the government because he felt the matter was really between Kano State and Pfizer and he encouraged both to reach a settlement in the interest of the patients. More importantly he felt that relevant federal government agencies had given approval to the study. The Federal Ministry of Justice can corroborate this assertion.
* Concerning Governor Shekarau, you are not obliged to share his political persuasion, but no one is going to take it from him that the Trovan settlement is one thing that he did right. And it does not make sense for dubious people to confuse issues in order to reap where they did not sow.
* The settlement terms never included the fact that “anyone who came with a patient would be given something, whether or not DNA test was carried out on them.”Â All claimants are required to undergo DNA testing.
No thanks to the machinations of Alhaji Maisikeli and his cohorts in the TVF, as a result of the injunction they received from the Court, the work of the Board with regard to determining compensation of the patients has been delayed for the past six months and has now been grounded, at least temporarily. Thus, the truth is that if all those involved had been allowed to submit to the DNA testing procedure, all genuine claimants would have been paid by now. If as a result of the injunction the process has not been allowed by Maisikeli and his TVF to take place, they cannot turn around, as they are now doing, to accuse the Board of Trustees of delaying payment to the patients.
And all those who are genuinely sensitive to human suffering, who cherish fair play and who abhor opportunism must rise up and raise their voices against the nefarious devices of these real enemies of the genuine patients of the Trovan trial.
They are not just satisfied with spurious and bogus court cases or casting aspersions on a globally accepted method of verifying claims based on genetics, they have decided to take to the pages of unwary newspapers not only to discredit but frustrate a process and procedure that offer the best options in responding to the legitimate entitlements of very vulnerable people.
Dr. Abdullahi Ibn Mohammed ([email protected]) writes from Kaduna.