A Nigerian medical student, Enya Egbe, fled his anatomy class crying after seeing the corpse of his friend among the bodies they were set to dissect as part of their lectures.
The 26-year-old still vividly recalls that Thursday afternoon seven years ago at Nigeria’s University of Calabar when he had to run out after seeing a familiar face among the dead bodies.
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The body his group had been about to dissect was that of Divine, his friend of more than seven years. He told BBC:
We used to go clubbing together. There were two bullet holes on the right side of his chest.
Oyifo Ana, one of the many students who ran out after Mr Egbe and found him weeping outside said most of the corpses they used in school had bullets in them. She added:
I felt so bad when I realised that some of the people may not be real criminals.
Mr Egbe sent a message to Divine’s family who, it turned out, had been going to different police stations in search of their relative after he and three friends were arrested by security agents on their way back from a night out.
The family eventually managed to reclaim his body.
Mr Egbe’s shocking discovery highlighted both the lack of corpses available in Nigeria for medical students and what can happen to victims of police violence.
The incident left Egbe traumatised that he abandoned his studies for weeks, imagining Divine standing by the door each time he tried to enter the anatomy room.
He ended up graduating a year after his classmates and now works in a hospital lab in Delta state.
Divine’s family managed to get some of the officers involved in his killing sacked – inadequate justice but still more than that experienced by many other Nigerians whose loved ones were the victims of police violence and may also have ended up in medical schools around the country.
In Nigeria, a current law hands “unclaimed bodies” in government mortuaries to medical schools. According to 2011 research in the medical journal Clinical Anatomy, over 90% of the bodies used in Nigerian medical schools are “criminals killed by shooting.”
Nigeria’s association of anatomists is now lobbying for a change in the law that will ensure mortuaries obtain full historical records of bodies donated to schools, and also family consent.