â€¢Â Â US official: only Nigerian authorities can issue intâ€™l warrant for her arrest
By Chiemelie EzeobiÂ Â
The petition demanding for the recall and extradition from the United States of a recipient of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Mrs. Bisola Anthonia Abayomi-Ojo, who is also a physiotherapist and Founder of Paton Physiotherapy Services, has garnered about 9,000 signatures.
The petition started on change.org after it emerged that Abayomi-Ojo had serially abused a special needs toddler suffering from cerebral palsy who was placed under her care.
Abayomi-Ojo, who was supposed to be undergoing treatment as one of punishments meted out to her by the Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board, Yaba, Lagos, had fled to the U.S. under false pretence.
The mother of the abused toddler, Mrs. Bukola Ayinde, who doubles as the author of Diary of a Special Needs Mum and Founder of P4:13 Foundation, an initiative for children with special needs, had raised the alarm last week which was championed by THISDAY and some other social media platforms.
The decision makers being petitioned in this case are Irex.org, the Dean, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.Â
When one Laitan Asekun started the petition to get her extradited to Nigeria, the signatures first came in trickles until people watched the video of the severe abuse. As of yesterday, over 9000 signatures had been gathered.
The petition read, â€œAnthonia Bisola Abayomi-Ojo violently abused a child living with cerebral palsy entrusted to her care in Nigeria in June 2016.
â€œThe attack was captured on CCTV. She had been employed as a physiotherapist by the parents of the child for two years before the discovery was made.
â€œShe was arrested by the police and sanctioned by the board for physical therapists. Without fulfilling her sanction, however, she left the country in November 2016 after receiving the Mandela Award.
â€œAs shown on the U.S. Embassy website, she is completing her fellowship at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is not only unrepentant, impertinent and abrasive, she is violent and unfit to work with children.â€
The general consensus of Nigerians who signed the petition was that Abayomi-Ojo should not only be stripped of the fellowship, but should also be brought back to Nigeria to pay for her crimes.
One Morenike Oresajo who signed the petition said: â€œI signed because I have a daughter with cerebral palsy and I would never ever be happy to see my daughter being treated like she doesnâ€™t matter.
â€œFor Godâ€™s sake, children with special needs didnâ€™t choose to be the way they are. They are to be loved and cared for just like every other child.â€
Also lending support to the cause, Founder of EbonyLive Television, Mo Abudu, said: â€œThis woman must never be allowed to look after children in need again. She must be stopped now.â€
Writing in from United Kingdom, Kemi Ogunyemi said: â€œI am signing this petition because it breaks my heart to see a special needs child treated like this.Â
â€œAs a mother with a child that has cerebral palsy, I can identify with the pain of the parent of this child and the struggles involved in ensuring that these special children are able to live and enjoy good quality of life.Â
â€œThis evil woman needs to be brought to justice and sent to prison. She is a professional and knows how it is essential that special children are treated with love because they are very sensitive and the impact any negative behaviour can have on their general wellbeing and recovery.Â
â€œI pray and hope the parents and the child involved get the judgment they deserve. I must also commend the head of school that brought this to the notice of the parent. If not for CCTV, this devil incarnate will never have been exposed.â€
Another, Bolanle Akanbi said: â€œIâ€™m appalled at this kind of behavior from a lady and worse still a professional. My heart bleeds for this little angel and the parents.
â€œThe only justice that can be served is for this lady never to have the opportunity to mete this torture on other children again.â€
Meanwhile, a top source in the United States Embassy in Nigeria informed THISDAY that the only way the culprit could be extradited was if the Nigerian authorities issued an international warrant for her arrest.
According to the source, owing to jurisdiction, the U.S. government cannot remove her from the programme and send her back to Nigeria except the Nigerian government issues an international warrant for her arrest.Â
In an earlier email sent by THISDAY last Thursday on the steps taken by the embassy to send the abusive physiotherapist back to Nigeria, the embassy, through its Cultural Affairs Officer, Larry Socha, had 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.
But many were of the opinion that the stance of the U.S. government raises concerns on the grounds that if Ojo is not stopped, there is certainty that she will be allowed to practice again and abuse other children.Â
This is because as a YALI (Young African Leadership Initiative) fellow, she is expected, after the fellowship, to continue to build the skills developed during her time in the U.S. through support from U.S. missions, USAID, and affiliated partners, including regional conferences, professional practicum experiences, and mentoring opportunities.Â
When contacted, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri, said she was not aware of the matter, but referred THISDAY to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama or the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Amb. Sola Enikanolaiye.