Thane Mental Hospital's Nigerian inmate finally sent back home after 8 years

In this week’s second success story for the Thane Mental hospital, a Nigerian inmate, Sunday Ozigbo, was finally sent back home after eight years, thanks to staffers and cops who helped with the paperwork

A fight over a piece of bread ended in over five years of incarceration for a 35-year-old Nigerian national in the Thane Mental Hospital. Yesterday, however, the man finally returned to his home country, thanks to the efforts of the hospital workers. This is the hospital’s second success story this week, after workers helped to reunite two women inmates with their families (see ‘Reunited’).

Even as he was escorted to the airport yesterday, Sunday Christian Ozigbo couldn’t believe he was finally going home. Pic/Onkar Devlekar
Even as he was escorted to the airport yesterday, Sunday Christian Ozigbo couldn’t believe he was finally going home. Pic/Onkar Devlekar

Eight years ago...
Sunday Christian Ozigbo (35), a resident of Lagos, Nigeria, told mid-day that he had come to India eight years ago on business. He arrived in 2007 and began living at Mira Road, dealing in clothes and medicine.

Sunday had long outstayed his visa, but did not bother to renew it, sure in the knowledge that no one would check it. But when the police arrested him in 2010, it was for a very different matter — he was charged with attempt to murder after he hit someone on the head for being refused bread.

“I was arrested by the Navghar police in Bhayandar for an attempt to murder case. I served three years at Thane jail for the case,” recalled Sunday.

But his troubles were far from over. Early in 2014, Sunday had finished his sentence and was to take a flight home and was escorted to the airport by the police. But he couldn’t contain his glee, and began to shout and rave, creating a ruckus at the airport. He was deemed unfit to fly and was admitted to Thane Mental Hospital on February 7, 2014.

“During admission, the officers told us that he had completed his prison term and was about to take a flight home when he got excited and started creating a ruckus at the airport,” said Gopal Ghodake, social worker who helped Sunday along with psychiatrist Dr Ashish Pathak.

After the brief psychotic episode at the airport, Sunday was treated till July, when he was once again deemed fit to fly. But by then, Sunday had misplaced his passport, and there was the added complication of his residing in the country without a valid visa.

However, the hospital staff joined hands with the Navghar police, particularly PI Shrikant Padule, to help the man and speed up his repatriation process, with constant follow-up. Thanks to this, he was finally able to take the long due flight home yesterday.

Hospital Superintendent, Dr Rajendra Shirsat said, “It was a great effort by the doctors and social workers who treated him. We continuously followed up with the Navghar police but the procedure for his release took time.”

Friday’s flight
“I can’t believe I am returning to my home town. I thought they were kidding when they told me about it. I was treated well in the hospital as well as in the jail, but was lonely. I am sad I won’t be able to see my mother, who passed away. I am happy to go back to my family,” said Sunday, who was provided with new clothes for his journey home.

“He boarded a flight to Kenya, from where he will take another flight to Lagos. We have requested the crewmembers to help him during the journey,” said a police officer from Navghar police station.

Before his departure, the 35-year-old was seen hugging other inmates at the hospital while bidding them farewell. The hospital staff said they would miss the ‘Monitor’, as he had been nicknamed.

“Sunday was the supervisor for all the inmates. When he was there, we never had any worries, as he was happy to keep an eye on the inmates, ensuring they had all eaten on time and were following rules. He would make us laugh, as we couldn’t understand him at first, but then we slowly learnt English,” said a warden.

On his part, Sunday too picked up rudimentary Hindi and Marathi during his long stay at in jail and hospital.

“At first, I used to cry because there was no one to share my feeling with, but I started learning Marathi and Hindi, thoda thoda. The years I spent in jail and hospital will be among the more memorable ones in my life,” said Sunday, who, notwithstanding his name, will probably count Friday his lucky day here on.

On January 26, mid-day reported how the staff at Thane Mental Hospital helped to reunite two women with their families. Both women were inmates at the facility and were barely in a condition to remember their own names, let alone give the details of their families. However, through repeated counselling and constant follow-up, staffers managed to find the families.

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