A 54-year-old Nigerian, Saubana Bello, has cried out for help, seeking funds to return to his family after spending 14 years in Trinidad and Tobago.
Bello said he departed the country to Venezuela in October 2005 in search of greener pastures but his inability to secure a job after three weeks informed his relocation to Trinidad and Tobago where he secured a job as a security agent.
He noted that barely ten days into the job, armed robbers attacked the building next to the company where he was stationed and upon sighting him, a security guard, came after him with their guns.
He said they rained bullets on him.
Bello, who is from the Southwest part of Nigeria, said he took to his heels but six bullets hit him in the chest, head, leg, and spinal cord which made him fall.
According to him, despite falling, the armed robbers came upon him but he was already speaking in Yoruba challenging God. He said this scared the armed robbers who went back to continue their operation.
Albeit, this was the beginning of Bello’s sojourn into financial struggles and countless surgeries, being bedridden.
He noted that several times, he tried to get the Nigerian embassy in the Caribbean country to assist him, but there was no success.
He also alleged that the lackadaisical attitude of the Nigerian embassy in Trinidad to his plight made him lose a vital opportunity to get help from a charity organisation based in India.
Bello said the Nigerian embassy delayed him for two years before issuing him his passport as requested by the charity organisation but by the time he got it, there was no means of getting help.
He called on the Nigerian government to look into the activities of its embassies and how responsive they are to citizens’ plights.
He said, “My name is Saubana Bello, I’m from Lagos, Nigeria. I am a Nigerian, I travelled out of Nigeria in October 2005. I travelled to a country called Venezuela, I spent three weeks in Venezuela without getting any job because I can’t speak Spanish. Hence I had to go to another country, Trinidad, Tobago that is close to Venezuela. When I got there, I got a job in a security company called Night Eyes Security Company.
“I got to the country and got a job that very day but I started working the following day. Unfortunately after ten days on the job, I was attacked by two robbers who shot me six times. They came for a robbery operation at a building close to where I was stationed to work, the building next to the company was where armed robbers came to rob, it was a three-storey building glasshouse structure so they saw me through the glass building; that was why they came to attack me.
“I was alone in the building. Funnily enough, that was the tenth time that I worked in that spot. On the first two occasions that I worked there, we were two security guards posted there. The tenth time, I was posted there alone. The robbers scaled the fence to my side. When I saw two guys jump the fence with guns, I ran but they followed me and started shooting me, they shot me several times but 6 bullets hit me.
“It’s something that happened within seconds. I was running with the gunshots trying to take a step further but I suddenly fell, that was where the bullet hit me in the spinal cord, it paralysed me at that moment from my waist down. I don’t know them, they ran back and finished their operation. This thing happened around 3 am. Despite the shots, I was still conscious but by the time they hit me, I didn’t know what was happening again, I was speaking Yoruba challenging God that why will this happen? Even as I was saying that the guys came closer to me and ran back again, I told God it must be a dream.
“The energy I should have saved, I expended it on talking to God. Fortunately, some men came around, saw me in a pool of blood, and rushed me to the hospital. I was just lucky to have survived because even at that spot, I had lost my breath. When they rushed me to the hospital because it happened around 3 am, there was no traffic and they didn’t even observe the traffic light.
“Immediately I arrived at the hospital, I became unconscious, the emergency section received me. All I knew was they were using scissors to cut my trouser pants because I was soaked in blood. That is what I can remember; from that moment, I went unconscious. I woke up three days later.
“That same night, they rushed me for an emergency surgery where they removed five out of six bullets, the doctor said none of them knew I was going to live, they all said I was going to die. It was only the machine that was indicating life in my body. They left the one in the spinal cord, I don’t know maybe they thought the pain would be too much. I had a bullet in my chest, I had one in my back and I had two bullets in my head and one on my left leg so how I survived it is a miracle.
“After that, I regained my consciousness. They tried to assess the injuries I sustained. They asked me questions, if I could remember what happened, I told them. The reason they asked me that was because of the bullet I received to the head so they realised I didn’t lose my memory, they brought a very sharp object but it is plastic, they used it to poke my hand, and asked if I felt it, I told them I felt it because it didn’t affect my hand, they told me they wanted to assess the problems, they asked me to raise my leg, I couldn’t. They told me they wanted to evaluate me and that I should close my eyes.
“They did it but anytime they touched a part of my body from my waist down, I wouldn’t say anything because I wouldn’t feel it but when they touched anything from my waist up, I would say yes. After everything, they said they were sorry to inform me that I am paralysed from my waist down. When the doctors told me I had been paralysed from my waist down, it was very shocking, I just started crying, I cried a lot, I told them I was not paralysed.
“At this point, I did not have any family here, the doctor did what they had to do. I have a friend whose name is Samson; when I woke up, I saw him by my side. He was the one that told me I had been unconscious for the past 3 days. I couldn’t call my wife or anyone, I couldn’t speak to anyone. I used to speak to my wife twice or three times a week.
“I travelled at 39, I am begging to go back home at 54. My son was 2 years and 9 months when I travelled, he will celebrate his 18th birthday on the 7th of this month. It’s unfortunate, the first surgery I had when they removed five of the bullets, I believe I have some complications, I have undergone a series of tests and surgeries, the situation was not encouraging that I had to spend two years and three months at the hospital.
“The first one and half years, I was just like a vegetable on the bed, I couldn’t even turn, they had to turn me, I was basically bedridden, I had bed sores everywhere. After I was discharged, I had nowhere to go. Doctors wanted me to be an out-patient that will be coming from the house, they’ll review and I’ll take my medications but when they discharged me, I told the doctor I had nowhere to go.
“So they discussed my issue with the Ministry of Social Development of Trinidad and Tobago so they placed me in a Geriatric home at the expense of the government of Trinidad and Tobago pending when I would be okay enough to go back to my country, Nigeria and from there, I have been in and out of the hospital. I thought after one year, I should be okay but unfortunately, because of my poor health, I have been in and out of the hospital. You won’t believe that eight years after the incident, I went for two surgeries in 2013; I have pictures.
“I can’t even go home in this condition because there is no money. All the surgeries, medications I received in this country, are all free, uncountable X-rays, CT scans, name it. No one asked me for anything. I received pints of blood, the only thing was when it was time to transfuse blood, they asked if I had someone who could donate blood, I said I had nobody and when it was time for them to give me blood, they did.
“It would be very stupid for me to think of going home. I told my family and wife that I am not in a good position to come home right now because if I come home, I am coming to die. Who will take care of the bill? So that’s why I stayed. After the last surgery in 2013, I told the doctor I would like to remove the bullet in my spinal cord because people are telling me that there’s a possibility that I will walk if I remove the bullet.
“The doctors gave me an appointment for six months after the last surgery. I went back for the removal of the bullet in my spinal cord but the problem is they keep postponing my surgery; they told me they had lots of emergencies before them and that they can’t attend to mine for that period. They postponed it and gave me another date and since then anytime I present myself for another surgery, they continue postponing it with the same excuse of having bigger emergencies before them till November 2016, when I went for another X-ray to know where the bullet was, to know if it had moved from the position it was initially to another position.
“When the doctors checked it, he advised me against removing the bullet, that there might be a complication. He said if I went on with it, I might not be able to use my hands anymore. The government of Trinidad and Tobago was paying for where I was staying so when they knew that my long-awaited surgery had been cancelled, I received a letter from the Ministry of Social Development and Family Matters informing me that my name had been removed from their social welfare programme.
“In the same letter, they informed me that the government of Trinidad and Tobago will no longer be responsible for the payment of my stay in the home at the end of December 2016. They told me that by 1st January 2017, if I chose to remain in the Geriatric home, the payment for staying there would be my responsibility. I called the Nigerian embassy to assist me, they did not do anything. I called them to inform them about my situation and problem, they didn’t do anything. I called the Nigerian embassy and I wrote emails, the secretary or people at the reception received my messages and passed them on but nothing came out of it.
“Before the year ended on December 31, I spoke with the woman that manages the home, Mrs Alexandra. I moved to the new home where the woman encouraged me to move to. The person managing the home accepted me and collected half of what she charges others. Some people have tried to help me but it wasn’t up to anything. When I started staying there, I promised the woman that I had contacted the embassy to help me and had also written some emails to some foundations, even I personally was begging God that I want to go home.
“An Ibo man went to the embassy to fight them that if they cannot help me, why are they there? I lost all the pictures of my trying periods from year one to seven when someone came and took my faulty laptop for repair. The man deleted all my pictures and videos. The pictures that I attached to my letter are the pictures of my last two surgeries in 2013, eight years after my attack. I can’t show these to my wife, she will break down.
”I wrote some charity organisations and foundations in Nigeria and England, I was only able to reach Esther Ajayi Foundation based in London. Her Personal Assistant was communicating with me, we communicated, I sent all the pictures and they were really touched. The PA told me there’s no problem that they will help me but asked me if my passport was in order, I said no, it had expired.
“They said they will help me so I can go back home. They asked me to call them when I get the passport. I was expecting the Nigerian embassy to call me though I was still expecting their support. By the time those seeing to the expired passport came, the Nigerian embassy had not called me, I went to the Nigerian embassy, they took my info, they said they were sorry they didn’t call me. It took almost two years before I got the passport done. The man at the foundation said when I get the passport done, I should call them.
“By the time I got it, I called that man, that was the PA and he said, unfortunately, he was not working with the woman anymore and he was the one I had been communicating with. He said he was into other things. He gave me her WhatsApp number so I called her, she didn’t pick up, I understood her. Later, I explained everything via voice note. I sent text messages explaining everything. I had to call the former PA again, he said the woman can decide who to help or not, that was how I lost hope of getting help from that source.
”I was always going to the embassy that I want to see the Ambassador, they will say he is not around and even when he was around, they said I had to see someone before I can see the Ambassador that he cannot see a citizen of Nigeria even with my condition.
”Nothing came from there, January this year makes it four years in the home I was staying before and I owe the landlady three years rent. I never knew the outcome from the foundation will come out this way. The landlady was not happy at all. I owe the landlady $8, 000.
“Few Nigerians were coming around, even when I was in the hospital, my story came up in the newspaper but the embassy here didn’t even reach me. At that time, I think there was an association of Nigerians that said they wanted to do something but the person who was talking to me was a doctor, she left Trinidad for the US, a lady. Since then, I haven’t heard anything. I spent four years at the home, I was only able to pay for one year; I owe her three years rent in arrears.
”The landlady herself went to the embassy to complain. When the situation was like this and she started complaining, I asked people to help me look for another home that I can stay in rather than stay in a place and accumulate debt.
“Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic affected me so much. Ever since the pandemic, nothing has worked. I tried to beg people to help me get an apartment where I’m staying now. The home I was in before, I was with old people, elderly people in their 80s, 90s and I entered the home as a very young man.
“This room that I’m staying in now, the people I’m staying with, I can’t even chat with them. They are more or less mentally ill, it’s like staying in Aro (Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro) in Nigeria.
“This is my situation, many Nigerians should come to my aid and help me so I can go back to Nigeria. I want to pay this woman $8,000, pay for my flight ticket and get money to go back home, I am a family man. I need help, I just want to go home. I need help from any source. I want my story to be told to the government of Nigeria so they will know what is going on in our embassies. The purpose of having embassies has been defeated. I want to go home.
“I also need support so I can pick up my life. I need your help. I travelled at 39 since 2005 October. I’m begging to go back home at 54, I stayed this long courtesy of my poor health. I could have left in 2013 if I knew the doctors would advise against removing the bullet. Those in Nigeria who feel like supporting me can credit my wife’s account, I opened an account for that purpose.
“I need help, I want to go home to my family. I’m at a home where they charge $90 per month, it is my friend that is paying it. Even when I moved out of that place, the embassy knew but decided to keep quiet, even all the surgery I did, they knew about me, none of them came to check on me.”
Saubana Bello can be reached via +18687975273.
Newzandar News – News