The medical student couldn't go back to study for weeks because he kept imagining his friend standing at the door of his anatomy class.
The sight of a lifeless body is something that medical students eventually get used to. But when Enya Egbe saw one particular body inside his anatomy class, he screamed and ran out of the class within minutes. During his days as a medical student in Nigeria's University of Calabar, Enya vividly remembers that it was a Thursday afternoon when he and his classmates gathered around three tables, each of which had a corpse resting on them.
Just as the students were about to dissect the bodies, Enya instantly recognized the face of one of them and realized it was his friend, Divine. "We used to go clubbing together," Enya told BBC. The terrified student screamed and ran out of the class. A fellow student, Oyifo Ana, followed him out.
Nigerian medical student Enya Egbe fled his anatomy class crying after being disturbed by the corpse he was asked to work on when he realised it was the body of his friend of more than 7 years. https://t.co/PFSOdhUugV— BBC News Africa (@BBCAfrica) August 2, 2021
Enya was sharing his story with Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, a Nigerian journalist and novelist, who is depicting the reality of supposedly "unclaimed" bodies that find their way to medical schools in Nigeria. It was seven years ago when Enya saw Divine's body in his medical school. "There were two bullet holes on the right side of his chest," he said. Until Divine's body arrived at the hospital, his family had been going from police station to police station to find any information they may have had on Divine's whereabouts. Before Divine went missing, it was reported that he and three of his friends were on their way back from a night out when they got arrested by security agents.
Oyifo, the classmate who ran behind Enya to find him weeping outside the classroom, said: "Most of the cadavers we used in school had bullets in them. I felt so bad when I realised that some of the people may not be real criminals." Attached to their medical school was a mortuary, and one time, a police van arrived at the medical school and unloaded several bodies that were covered in blood.
What happened to Divine represents the reality in Nigeria of how there is a lack of cadavers available for medical students in the country. It also shows the horrifying reality of what happens to people who become victims of police violence. The country's current law says that "unclaimed bodies" lying in government mortuaries will eventually go to medical schools.
A 2011 research in the medical journal Clinical Anatomy also found that over 90 percent of bodies that reached medical schools belonged to "criminals killed by shooting." It was also pointed out that relatives are allowed to collect bodies of lawfully executed criminals, according to a senior lawyer, Fred Onuobia. But "if no-one shows up after a certain length of time, the bodies are sent to teaching hospitals."
However, when people are victims of extrajudicial killings, then relatives often do not know where their family members can be found or what even happened to them.
Read this and understand what Nigeria Security are doing to the bodies of our people they killed extrajudiciallyhttps://t.co/bCIQzZnVuY— Elochukwu Ohagi (@ElochukwuOhagi) August 3, 2021
After Enya recognized his friend's body in the mortuary, he informed Divine's family, and they managed to reclaim the body. The family was only able to give Divine a proper burial because his body somehow, purely by chance or luck, was on the table in Enya's anatomy class.
Following the incident, Enya could not study for weeks because each time he went to anatomy class, he would imagine Divine standing there at the door of the room. However, he eventually resumed his studies and the now 26-year-old graduated about a year after his classmates.
Cover image: Representational (Source: Getty Images | Photo by Hello World)