The death of a Benin-based Nollywood actor and staff of the State Ministry of Arts, Culture Tourism, Brown Atienwhen, has sparked protest as hundreds of Nollywood members took to the streets Tuesday.
Atienwhen died last Sunday at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH).
The actors and actresses who protested on major streets in Benin City, the Edo state capital, southsouth Nigeria, alleged that he died because he could not pay the N150,000 demanded by the doctors treating him.
Colleagues and the leaders of the workers’ union in the Edo Arts Council, a parastatal under the State Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism, also alleged that the artiste died because of negligence on the part of the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Caroline Edo-Osagie, who did not release money for the treatment of the deceased.
Reacting, Mr. Mike Kadiri, Chairman of the Edo Arts Council chapter of the Radio, Television and Theatre Workers’ Union, RATTAWU, said although the commissioner in charge of the ministry approved the release of the sum of N150,000 to the family of the late actor last week, the Permanent Secretary refused to release the money, because according to her, the late artiste owed her N7,000.
Kadiri, who said he personally took the deceased to the hospital where he was diagnosed, noted that the doctor requested for the sum of N150, 000 to carry out a major operation and he immediately informed the ministry.
He said that the man eventually died on Sunday, just two days after the money was eventually released to the family.
“The commissioner confirmed that she approved the money immediately the request was made and that we should see the Permanent secretary, Edo-Osagie. But she sent us out of her office and said she had no business with us and when we persisted she walked out of the office,” Kadiri said.
Efforts to reach Mrs. Edo-Osagie in her office failed as she was said to have travelled out of the state.
The state Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism, Miss Aanena Jimitola, confirmed that the money was released to the family of the actor before he passed on, adding that though there was dearth of funds, she expected that with various income sources available to the ministry the money should have been released earlier.