Outrage over Mandela Washington Fellow’s Abuse of Special Needs Toddler

  • Nigerians demand her recall from U.S. programme
  • We are aware of the disturbing allegations, says American Embassy

Chiemelie Ezeobi

A Nigerian physiotherapist and Mandela Washington Fellow, Ms. Bisola Anthonia Abayomi Ojo, who is currently in the United States for her programme, has elicited national outrage after she was caught on CCTV abusing a special needs toddler left in her care in Nigeria.

Ojo was caught on camera abusing the toddler with cerebral palsy at the crèche where her parents had enrolled her.

The footage, which was obtained by the girl’s parents, showed the physiotherapist beating her repeatedly, after twisting her arm severally and hitting her with a phone, and generally abandoning the toddler when she was not busy abusing her.

The case was reported to the Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board in Yaba, Lagos, leading to her suspension for three months, with a clause that she must get treatment, which she agreed to do.

However, she later turned up at the board alleging that she was going for treatment in the U.S. and was given permission to travel. But unknown to the board, she was actually going for her fellowship in the U.S.

Already, a petition has been started on change.org for her to be recalled from the fellowship on the grounds that she is undeserving of the programme. As of press time, it had garnered thousands of likes.

In her post on Bellanaija, a lifestyle blog, the devastated mother of the abused child, Mrs. Bukola Ayinde, who is the founder of the P4:13 Foundation and author of Diary a Special Needs Mum, narrated her daughter’s ordeal.

According to Mrs. Ayinde, they came in contact with the physiotherapist because they had a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

She said: “Getting a diagnosis which says your child has cerebral palsy is a parent’s worst nightmare. I had my period of living in denial; wishing the problem would go away, like it was all a dream, but the reality stared me in the face.

“My husband and I decided to face the challenge before us squarely. We engaged different specialists – neurologist, paediatricians, physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, special needs care givers.

“At one point, we were scouting for a very good physiotherapist. A parent of a special needs child recommended a young lady to me. I mentioned her name to one of my daughter’s therapist who confirmed that the lady was very good at her job.

“However, she also confirmed that the lady could be arrogant. I spoke with another therapist on the field who also confirmed that the recommended physiotherapist was good at what she does but she could be rude.

“Well, at that point of my life, I didn’t mind if she was going to be rude to me or arrogant as far as she was as good as everyone had said, I was fine with that. All I wanted to see was my child’s improvement, I could take any sh*t in between.

“She came on board as my daughter’s physiotherapist. She was very professional and dedicated, but she didn’t come cheap. She didn’t come cheap at all.

“My daughter attended a mainstream school that allowed her to use the sickbay as her pullout room for her physiotherapy session.

“In June 2016, my daughter’s school proprietress requested that my husband and I should make out time to see her. When we eventually did a week later, she told us that the physiotherapist had manhandled our daughter and she was going to show us a CCTV recording to prove it.

“At the back of my mind, I felt the woman was exaggerating because therapy could be demanding at times. My child may cry, if she didn’t like the exercise or if the exercise was tasking.

“However, when I watched the video, I was shocked beyond words that someone I trusted with my daughter could treat her worse than an animal. I believe that even an animal shouldn’t be treated that way.

“I mean, she came highly recommended; she is a Masters degree holder. She is not an illiterate.

“Apparently, she didn’t remember that there was a CCTV in the room or she felt nobody would be checking the TV at that particular time.

“It was heartbreaking to see my daughter treated by a health worker in such a barbaric act.

“I watched my daughter as she fell down several times hitting her head on the tiles. There were times she hit her head on the edge of the wooden bed before falling to the ground.

“Her physiotherapist slapped her three times; the third time with her cell phone. She left her head hanging upside for five minutes. She twisted my daughter’s hands several times; at a point she sat on her hands, at another point she tied her hands behind her head.

“I watched as my daughter fell from her chair while her neck was stuck in between the space at the vertical back rest and the flat wood used for sitting down.

“I watched on as this lady typed on her phone 90 per cent of the time, only taking some time off to torture my daughter. Did I mention that she took out time to take her selfie? Up to five times.

“After we watched the recording, my husband could not control his tears. My heart bled.

“My daughter’s neurologist said we cannot ascertain the level of damage to her brain because we did not bring her immediately it happened.

“He said an MRI would have to be done to ascertain any damage.

“I got her arrested. She said she was sorry. She claimed depression and ill health. I did not believe her then, I don’t believe her now.

“I had to make a decision, to leave my daughter in the hands of her nannies at home (which may be another source of abuse) and follow through to ensure the physiotherapist was duly punished. (Bearing in mind the justice system in Nigeria) or drop the charges lodged at the police station and allow the Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board at Yaba to handle the matter.

“I dropped the police charges. I decided to stay with my traumatised daughter. I handed the physiotherapist over to the Registrar at the Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board at Yaba.

“Her punishment was three months withdrawal of her practicing licence. Three months work in a General Hospital under supervision without pay. She was to undergo a psychiatric test

“Like seriously? Are you kidding me? She had been practicing for a year without renewing her licence and all you could do was to withdraw her licence officially for a mere three months?

“She went back to the Registrar at Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board to ask for permission to travel to U.S. to get treatment.

“I called to check on the case and I was told she had travelled for treatment. I was told not to worry, as she cannot practice anywhere else in the world without a letter from the board.

“Some months later, I was told by a reliable source that she was not taking any major treatments but attending a Masters programme in the U.S.

“So she got away with child abuse, assault, battery, in fact attempted murder. This is only possible in Nigeria right?

“I went back to Medical Rehabilitation Board, I was shocked to find out that the case had gone cold. What stops her from coming back into the country and working with other children? How many Nigerians ask for practicing licence before employing a professional?

“I strongly believe that the least the board should have done was to declare her unfit to work with children.

“In respect to my daughter, the signs were there: she had been withdrawn for a while. In fact, she had stopped smiling, interacting with anybody in the house, or attempting to answer questions in school.

“I kept asking the care giver that followed her to school about the sudden change. The caregiver said she had no idea. I came up with my own theory and I brushed it aside.

“How would I have known that a health worker, someone I trusted with my child could be so cruel? The physiotherapist had been with us for over two years. I can only imagine….

“Well, I pulled my daughter out of school and started her own mini-school at home. I let go of my current caregivers for good reasons and got new ones.

“With care and love, she added weight, came out of her shell and got better. Right now, she attends a school three times a week and we are making progress.”

Responding to an email sent by THISDAY on the steps taken by the U.S. embassy to send the abusive physiotherapist back to Nigeria, the embassy, through its Cultural Affairs Officer, Larry Socha, acknowledged that they were aware of the allegations.

However, Socha, while admitting that U.S. government believes in the protection of children from abuse and neglect, referred THISDAY back to the Nigerian authorities.

His response read: “We are aware of these disturbing allegations. The United States believes strongly in the protection of children from abuse and neglect.

“We would refer you to the Nigerian authorities regarding action taken in response to the reported incident.”