Church Accountant Bags 18 Years for N15.5m Fraud – PRNigeria News

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Church Accountant Bags 18 Years for N15.5m Fraud

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Gombe Zonal Office on January 13, 2020, secured the conviction of one Ibrahim Aku before Justice Nathan Musa of the Adamawa State High Court.

Aku, an accountant at EYN Church of Christ (Ekilisiyar Yen Uwa Nigeria), EYN, Church of Brethren in Nigeria (CBN) in the state faced a six-count charge, bordering on forgery and obtaining money by false pretence.

He was investigated and prosecuted following a petition by the church through Rev. (Dr). Daniel Mbaya an Secretary General of the Church alleging that Aku defrauded the church of N15.5million between 2016 and 2018.

Investigations by the EFCC, revealed that the money was generated by the church members by offerings, donations and tithe.

The convict was entrusted by the church to deposit the church’s revenue into the church’s account with First Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc, but he ended up diverting same, and forged bank tellers to balance the financial books of the church.

He was assisted to commit the crime by his friend, one Benefit Ishaku currently at large to whom he gave N500,000. His accomplice assisted him in forging the stamps of the banks, which were also used to perpetrate the fraud.

He was prosecuted using the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.

He pleaded “guilty” to the charges.

Prosecuting counsel, S.E. Okemini, thereafter, urged the court to convict him as charged.

Justice Musa, thus, pronounced him guilty and sentenced him to 18 years in prison – three years on each of the counts, to run concurrently. He was not given an option of fine.

The trial judge, further ordered that he refund the stolen fund to the church, and that proceeds of the crime recovered from him should be sold and the proceeds remitted to the Church.

Tony Orilade
Acting Head, Media & Publicity
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EFCC Nabs Internet Fraudsters in Ibadan

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC Ibadan zonal office, between January 11 and 12, 2020, arrested eight suspected internet fraudsters in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
The suspects, who are between the ages of 17 and 30 years old, were arrested at different locations across the ancient city. They are Abdulrahman Qozeem, Umoru Ibrahim, Umoru Abdulahi Gregory, Famous Ose Itahma, Umoru Shaibu Pedro, Durrele Oyeniyi, Umoru Evidence and Judge Okoye.

Their arrest was sequel to series of intelligence report, alleging that they were involved in internet-related crimes.

Items recovered from them include six expensive cars, various brands of phones, laptops, international passports and several documents suspected to contain false pretences.
They will soon be arraigned in court.

Tony Orilade
Acting Head, Media & Publicity

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Doctors of Death: Nigeria’s medical misdiagnosis crisis | P.M. News

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*A Special Report by P.M.NEWS

Doctors at work in Idah General Hospital, Kogi state: Misdiagnosis of ailments now a major crisis in Nigeria

By Lanre Babalola

His patient lost a kidney and died but Dr Yakubu Koji was unwilling to admit responsibility when he faced in September a tribunal set up by the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council to try a tribe of reckless and professionally negligent doctors in the country.

According to the tribunal documents, Koji of the Jimeta Clinic and Maternity, Adamawa was charged with gross professional negligence which led to the death of a patient in his care.

He was accused of incompetence in the assessment of the patient and incorrect diagnosis of his illness. To worsen matters, Koji operated on the patient because the patient insisted he should do the operation.

At the tribunal, Koji was told he was negligent in advising the patient on the risk involved in the operation, and also failing to obtain an informed consent of the patient.

At the same tribunal in September, Dr Ikeji Charles of Kefland Family Hospital, Apo Mechanic Extension, Abuja,was arraigned for causing the death of his patient, after surgery for hernia.

Charles was charged with four counts of incompetence and negligence. But like Koji, he also pleaded not guilty.

Regularly, the medical council tribunal holds sessions to hold Nigerian doctors to account and at the end, it suspends doctors found guilty of professional negligence for some months or in rare cases, ban them from practising. The session in September was the third this year.

Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire

One of the doctors recently convicted by the tribunal was Kebbi-based Jamilu Muhammad who erroneously diagnosed that a baby in the womb was dead and then carried out surgery to evacuate the supposedly dead baby. The operation however showed that the baby was alive, but the doctor had amputated the baby’s upper limb as he dissected the mother.

The medical council revealed recently it was investigating 120 doctors for various professional misconduct, while 60 others were awaiting trial at the Tribunal.

Chairman of the medical tribunal, Professor Abba Hassan, right with former health minister, Professor Adewole

Although the tribunal often sanctions the errant doctors, it is debatable if the sanctions were fitting enough for the death of their patients and the anguish this triggers for their families.

Many Nigerians have had unpalatable experiences in the hands of doctors who misdiagnosed their ailments and went on to prescribe the wrong drugs and the wrong treatment. Not many of these patients lived to tell their stories.

Across the country some Nigerians of all classes are dying of common ailments due to wrong diagnosis and drug prescriptions by supposedly trained Nigerian medical doctors.

Wrong diagnosis has become a major and lingering crisis afflicting Nigeria’s medical sector. No wonder, those who could afford it, including the nation’s president and the political leaders, whenever they fall ill, dust their passports and head to Europe, America, Middle East and Asia to seek help.

May be Nigeria would still have had human rights advocate, Chief Gani Fawehinmi alive today, if his lung cancer was detected early. But a Nigerian doctor who examined him said he was suffering from asthma and plied him with plenty asthma drugs. Fawehinmi lamented in the latter part of his life that if his ailment had been correctly diagnosed earlier, he would have taken proper care of himself. He died in 2009.

Gani Fawehinmi: lung cancer diagnosed as asthma

Afrobeat star, Femi Kuti recently tweeted about his late younger sister, Sola, who died due to wrong diagnosis by Nigerian doctors.

Wrong diagnosis has always been a problem in our country.

In 1985, Abudu Razaq, a young student of The Polytechnic, Ibadan complained of severe pains in the lower abdomen and was rushed to the State House Clinic in Marina, Lagos Island. After examining him, the doctors referred him to the then newly founded St. Nicholas Hospital, near City Hall. The team of doctors examined him and concluded that he was suffering from what they called Appendicectomy and an operation to cut the appendix was recommended. They opened him up and later realised that the appendix was not ripe enough to be cut. They removed the stones in the appendix and sealed him up— a classic case of misdiagnosis by supposedly well-trained doctors. What if the patient had died in the course of the ill-advised operation based on the wrong diagnosis?

Another case of misdiagnosis by Nigerian doctors is that of Ade Bisiriyu(not real name) a patient with a sleeping disorder who walked into a clinic at Ikeja, Lagos and complained to the doctor that he couldn’t sleep at night. He told the doctor he was urinating five, six times in the night. The doctor took his body temperature, samples of his blood and urine for examinations and gave him some injections (anti-biotic) which he took for five days.

The patient came back to complain that he still couldn’t sleep. The doctor now zeroed on the patient’s age, he was 56 and declared the patient must be having prostate issues. The doctor advised him to go for a scan at a diagnostic facility on Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja. After perusing at the scan result, he concluded that the patient was suffering from prostate enlargement and recommended some drugs.

But rather than abate, the ailment became worse with the patient observing blood in his stool and pains in the anus. He went back to the doctor and the doctor analysed that it has resulted in haemorrhoids caused by acute pile. He recommended drugs again but the drugs fail to provide succour to the patient.

The pains in the anus got so severe that the patient became so confused.

He went to the doctor again and the doctor recommended that he go for another prostate scan and what he called Colonoscopy.

”After this consultation and the doctor’s reaction to my complaint, I knew he has reached a dead end. He has no solution to my problem. He was only interested in the money. I had to seek a new medical advice,” said the distraught patient.

He sought help with a doctor in Ado Odo-Ota, Ogun State. The doctor at the private medical facility listened to the patient’s complaint, asked him to go for an abdomen scan. After studying the result of the scan, the patient was placed on drips in the hospital for a 24-hour observation. Some injections were given and drugs recommended. After weeks of taking the drugs, the pain did not abate. Rather, it got worse. The patient had emaciated considerably and it was visible he was suffering internally.

Dr. T. A. Sanusi, Registrar Medical and Dental Council

The patient went to complain again to the doctor. The doctor conducted further tests and concluded it was cancer of the anus. The patient is still battling with this ailment.

Bayo Onanuga: I nearly lost my leg

I nearly lost my leg

In 2006, journalist Bayo Onanuga had a freak accident at home. He fell off a ladder and fractured his ankle. It was a bad fracture, what orthopaedic doctors called ‘pilon fracture’. The right ankle bone was badly shattered.

‘It happened about 5.30 am, as I jumped down from a ladder, that I felt was giving way under me, while changing the bulb In my pantry. I was helped to the General Hospital at Ikeja by a colleague, immediately after.

“At the hospital, an x-ray was done, which confirmed that the ankle was badly broken. The doctor on duty was given the x-ray and then he proceeded to cast my foot in POP.

“I immediately complained about serious discomfort after the POP cast was done: I felt some burning sensation in the sole of my foot. What I felt was beyond pain. My leg was literally on fire.

“I told the doctor, what I was feeling. He said I should bear the pain and gave me analgesic.
I took the analgesic and yet the sensation did not subside.

Dr Jonathan Osamor: offers suggestions on helping doctors

“I was lucky, I was stretchered into a LASUTH VIP ward for observation after the casting. As I lay on bed, I kept complaining that my leg was ‘burning’. The nurses on duty could not understand why an adult that I was should be complaining like a baby. I persisted in ventilating my complaint.

“When it seemed they would not listen to me and they appeared not to empathise with me, I peeled off the POP. It was still wet and in minutes, I succeeded in removing it. I instantly felt relieved and I fell asleep, leg raised on a wooden plank.

Some hours after, an orthopaedic surgeon came to check on me. The first question he asked was: “Who put the POP on this man’s leg?” The nurses kept conspiratorially mute.

”And then the surgeon dropped the bomb: “If this POP had remained on this leg for five hours, the leg would have developed gangrene and we would have needed to cut it off.”

”The nurses were too ashamed to say anything. I was right and they were wrong. And the doctor who put the cast, without checking the x-ray was more criminally negligent.

“The surgeon said my ankle needed an operation and because the leg had swollen up, I would wait for one week for the operation to take place.

“I had no choice. I waited. Exactly a week after, the operation was done to deal with the pilon fracture that I had sustained.

“Though the operation was successful, with some metals put inside my leg to allow the broken bone regrow, it came with its own issues. The metals were not properly set. I ended up spending seven months at home, for an injury that should not have taken me off my routine for more than three months.

“In my case, after four months at home in Lagos, without appreciable healing, I had to travel to the UK for assistance. Three months after, I was back on my feet.

I nearly died of pneumonia

Onanuga also shared his experience with another doctor when he nearly died of pneumonia. His doctor diagnosed it as muscular pain.

“On a Saturday morning, one day in 2010, I drove myself to my doctor and told him I had pneumonia.

“He asked me about the symptoms I had. I said I felt breathless when I climbed the stairs. I could no longer exercise because of this. I said I felt some pain in my rib cage on the right and I was not feeling very well.

“He didn’t agree with me that my symptoms spelled pneumonia. Instead, he said what was ailing me was ‘muscular ache’.

“To resolve all arguments, he asked me to go for a scan. I did. The result however did not confirm my own diagnosis. The area of my body scanned showed nothing.

“My doctor said: “I told you so, you do not have pneumonia. You have muscular ache. So he gave me some analgesics.I took the medicine home and used as prescribed.

“By the evening of same day my diagnosis was confirmed by what I began to notice. In the night, I went downstairs in my house to pick something in the backyard and suddenly I was gripped by excruciating pain in my stomach. I crouched and had to maintain the position to crawl back into the house. I was the only one at home. My wife had travelled.

“The following day, I became more alarmed. When I sneezed, the mucus that came out was laced with blood. When I coughed, I also saw blood in my phlegm. These are signs of pneumonia that a senior colleague of mine had experienced. I decided to help myself and Googled the best medicine for pneumonia.

“I wrote it down and went to one of the best pharmacies in Ikeja to buy the drug. I started to use it instantly. Two days after, I decided to seek help, again in the UK.

“I was diagnosed with pneumonia. The scan done by a female Nigerian trained radiologist, now working in the UK, picked up some blood clots in my rib cage area. The doctor said the pneumonia would have killed me and even wondered how I had survived. I didn’t tell him I was on my own self-prescribed medication.

“He gave me the same drug that I bought in Lagos, with an additional one. And he asked me to start using them immediately. About five days after, the pneumonia was clear and I was fit enough to return to my country.

Another case of misdiagnosis by Nigerian doctors was narrated by a female journalist who blamed wrong diagnosis by doctors for her brother’s death.

”I lost my immediate elder brother to the cold hands of death on Saturday, February 25, 2017, due to what I call inconclusive diagnosis. Prior to his death, he was a known Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) patient, and he was well managed by my parents and other members of the family.

“He came over to my parents’ complaining of fever and leg pain, and on Thursday night, he became unconscious and was rushed to the hospital, unfortunately, he didn’t survive the experience. His blood sample was collected and a series of tests conducted on him.

“Initially, he was said to have suffered from stress, which was as a result of insomnia he experienced some weeks before he took ill.Then another result came in on Friday evening that he had a Stroke, and it had affected his brain.

“I didn’t understand what that meant, especially since he could move his limbs, but his eyes were open with him rolling his eyeballs involuntarily; he was neither here, nor there.

“Once the result about the brain stroke was handed to my mum, we were advised to take him for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – a brain scan, to ascertain the depth of the damage caused by the stroke to his brain. This was only done in 2 hospitals in Lagos.

“When his condition became really unstable Friday night and this caused my mum to shout and panic as she sought help for her son, one of the doctors carelessly said that she should not disturb them with her noise as he was going to die eventually.

“After a series of attacks and instability on Friday night with doctors battling to keep him alive, they managed to resuscitate him with oxygen, unfortunately, he passed on Saturday morning.

“He died before midday. Doctors claimed he died from jaundice complications and that confused me the more”, she said.

Fictional Aneurysm

Sumbo Adeyemi, a Nigerian lady in her twenties complained of severe headache all the time. She first went to St Nicholas Hospital in central Lagos, where the doctor she met, after a scan, diagnosed that she had Intracranial aneurysm and recommended a brain surgery for the supposed ailment.

Alarmed, her relations asked her to seek another diagnosis, from another doctor. The new doctor recommended an MRI scan at a Mecure centre in Lekki. The scan showed not aneurysm but another ailment in the brain.

Confused because of two conflicting diagnosis, Sumbo’s family suggested a third diagnosis outside the country.

In the UK, about 12 doctors, who attended to her rejected outright the two conflicting scans done in Lagos and said they could not have been for the lady.

They then told her that her problem was migraine and that it was caused by insufficient sleep and stress. They advised her to stop watching football, among other stressful things. She was then given some analgesics to use.

The lady is married now and has children and the “migraine” had disappeared. What if she had agreed that doctors open up her brain, in search of a non-existent aneuryism?

Certainly, something is wrong with Nigerian doctors such that they keep missing the goal post in diagnosing their patients’ ailments.

Dr Jonathan Osamor of the Oyo State General Hospital, Moniya, Ibadan gave some explanations: .

“For wrong diagnosis to be made, there are so many components. The first important component is clerking, taking down the history from the patient. If your patient cannot explain very well, you may not be able to extract relevant information from him or her. There could be communication barrier, which may occur as a result of the patient speaking one language and the doctor speak another. Your interpretation of the complaint goes a long way. You may misinterpret the complaint. Another component is you physically examining the patient, whether you can elicit any kind of sign from the patient. That is where your own clinical skill comes in. If you are not versed clinically, you may not be able to identify which of the system of the body is faulty.

“The body is divided into systems – cardiovascular for the circulation, chest for respiratory, abdomen and so on. So, if you examine the system and you are not able to elicit information on some signs that will point to where that pathology is, then you fall back on investigations. Investigation also depends on if the patient has the money and if the laboratory facility is adequate. In other words, there are so many components that could go wrong.

“But you see, it supposed to be a team work. The first point of contact is the junior doctor who has to review with his senior. That is the check, the control. But if you have a facility such as a primary healthcare centre or a local government hospital whereby the doctor is all in all, then there is bound to be a problem.

So, it is the fault of the system we are running. There is no funding, there is no policy from the policy makers as to the milestones you can achieve. The point is that when you have a system that is not organised, it becomes chaotic and things like wrong diagnosis and prescription can occur”, Osamor said.

“Take for instance, general hospitals where the staff are not enough. They may not be able to interpret the complaint of the patient accurately. That can lead to wrong diagnosis and of course, that will be predisposed to wrong prescription. So, it is a lot of components that are involved: Patient communication, presentation, the language barrier, your own understanding or level of your experience, how you were exposed and then laboratory interpretation. If the lab is not functioning, you may just prescribe without waiting for laboratory confirmation of the particular complaint the patient has.

“So, it is the fault of the system we are running. There is no funding, there is no policy from the policy makers as to the milestones you can achieve. The point is that when you have a system that is not organised, it becomes chaotic and things like wrong diagnosis and prescription can occur”, Osamor said.

Dr Sulaiman Abiodun, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at University College Hospital, also in Ibadan largely agreed with Osamor. Abiodun also blamed poor training of medical doctors, work load and poor rewards as the reasons for rampant misdiagnosis.

“When doctors are overworked, there may be a problem. Everybody has a limit. The moment one has gotten to his or her limit, you cannot expect him or her to perform optimally compared to when he or she has not been over stretched. When you are over stretched, stress will surely set in. The system cannot have the best of you again. Also, many doctors do not have adequate sleep due to the enormous and overwhelming work they do. All these factors will affect the efficiency of the doctors or the quality of the services they will render.

Abiodun also identified poor and non-functioning equipment for diagnosis as part of the crisis of medicare in Nigeria.

How can we stem the crisis of misdiagnosis? Osamor again volunteered some suggestions:

“First for all, the policy makers must have a vision that will guarantee a standard practice in the medical industry. The policy making bodies like hospital management board and ministry of health must be determined to do things rightly. There must be political will to make things work.

“Funding is another issue. The government must fund healthcare system properly. A lot of hospitals don’t have adequate consulting rooms. The roof of a hospital is leaking. There is a structural decay. Also, staffing is very important. You must be able to staff and encourage your staff to the level that they are retained.

“So, there is need for manpower, human capacity building, in-service training, seminars, conferences that they should go so that they can be exposed. And of course, remuneration. Remuneration is very important. If the doctors are well remunerated, they will stay in Nigeria and give their best and there will not be issue of brain drain. So, we have a problem of systemic failure. Policy makers should be able to make a lot of difference when it comes to that”, Osamor said.

Like Osamor, Abiodun also stressed the need for training and retraining doctors. Training, he said, is very important to any profession. “To enable doctors receive good training in medical schools, government needs to properly fund medical institutions and adequately provide necessary equipment to train them with. After medical schools, training and retraining is important so that the doctors will not be outdated”.

*With reports by Gbenro Adesina/Ibadan; Olufumilola Olukomaiya & Jennifer Okundia.

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When Donald met Scott: a reporter’s view of Trump and his White House wonderland

Australian PM Scott Morrison received a full-blown welcome from the US president. Katharine Murphy was on hand for an inside account Support our independent journalism with a one-off or recurring contribution

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Scott Morrison has made his first visit to the United States as prime minister. It was a trip that included a close encounter with the unpredictability of the Trump White House, a foreign policy pivot, and a backlash about a lack of climate policy action. Guardian Australias political editor, Katharine Murphy, travelled, with the prime minister. Here is what she witnessed:

Washington

Weve been positioned at the White House since 5am, watching the sun creep over the American capital. Security is as laborious as youd expect. Dogs sniff bags, then the secret service guys have a good look, passports are collected, checked and returned, White House passes and pins are distributed, and then at last we clear the metal detectors. Eventually we make it to the press briefing room, the small blue one, famous through several presidential administrations but now abandoned by Donald Trump. The modest proportions dont fit his presidency. Now its just a transit zone.

We are greeted by a blond woman in a broad-brimmed hat. June, a self-described southern belle, is receiving visitors in the briefing room, although its not clear why. She identifies herself as a fellow scribe working for Christian radio and television in Nashville. When shes not reporting on the Trump White House, shes rallying Christians for the president. This seems something of a line cross for a reporter with White House press accreditation but weve been on the premises for about 10 minutes and its clear that were not in Kansas any more.

Donald
Donald and Melania Trump welcome Scott and Jenny Morrison on the south lawn with full military honours. Photograph: MAI/REX/Shutterstock

On the other side of the building, visitors are streaming across the South Lawn to grab prime positions to witness The Donald receiving The Scott at the official welcome. Flags, American and Australian, are held aloft on a glorious summery day. Eventually we are permitted to wander down to the lawn as well.

The Donalds grass is lush and slightly dewy, making me regret my choice of footwear. The daylight is now dazzling but the bucolic scene is disturbed by Austin rebuking Steve in the media pen. The confrontation happens just before the splendidly peppy pipe band strides across the lawn for the ceremonial welcome.

Ive never met Austin before this moment but he looks about 30, buttoned down and watchful as a raptor a White House wrangler who looks as though he hasnt sat down, eaten anything apart from a protein bar, or slept more than four hours straight a night since early infancy. Steve has transgressed and Austin convenes a short, sharp show trial in front of me. Ive nabbed a prime position on the fence in the media pen right in front of the entrance, and I dont intend to move unless the secret service guy standing beside me gets feisty.

You left the media area to make a call, Austin says, voice appropriately low so as not to disdain the Wonderful Occasion swelling around us. Steve is older than his accuser and possesses the rumpled look of a longtime print or news wire reporter. Ive never seen Steve before either, but hes clearly part of the White House press pool and looks like a man disinclined to small talk. My guess, from my quick scan of the body language, the suppressed inner sigh, is that Steve has seen a number of Austins in his reporting lifetime, perhaps a small production line of them, and is not much gripped by this power play.

Steve says nothing. Austin persists. In a minute we are going to go full Veep. The secret service told me you left the media area to make a call is this correct? Steve, at the end of his tolerance for JAccuse now, delivers his mic drop. Yah, he says. One of the secret service guys held back the rope so I could get out to make the call. I needed to take the call. I suspect Austin doesnt really know where to take this from here. The aide returns to the front of the fence, shoulders back, eyes front. Its showtime.

Trump strides out of the White House with Melania. From my vantage point they look like a pair of Easter Island statues. This is my first encounter with the current leader of the free world and my curiosity is intense. How will Trump look uncut?

Donald
Donald and Melania Trump arrive to greet Scott Morrison. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Will he look how he does on television, with that weird affect the pursed lips, narrowed eyes and nose and chin set to an upward inflection, indicative of defiance and displeasure? Or is this a posture he adopts only after he pulls on the presidential onesie every day and heads for Fox News, purring ready for my close-up Mr DeMille?

I discover this is how Trump looks all the time, or at least all the time he is in open space. Hes striding to the podium with exactly that look, with Melania, who is a dignified presence yet strangely devoid of life force. Perhaps she laughs and sings and dances in her track pants like no one is watching in her private domain but, in public, Mrs Trump looks like a perfectly proportioned doll in a dolls house.

Over the next little while, Trump will lavish praise on Melania for her crack presidential spouse skills. The first lady, Trump reports over and over during the course of Friday, worked so hard on the table settings for the state dinner, pondering every detail. The flowers, the centrepieces, so wonderful, so beautiful. The best table decorations anyone has ever seen.

Its hard for me to imagine the reality of the first ladys life, what it must be like to agonise over centrepieces for state dinners amid the sound and fury of her husbands bitterly contested presidency. Given her reserved public presence, it feels like an impertinence to wonder.

Theres no time for whimsy in any case, because the Morrisons are now on the premises, ready for their induction into the Trumpiverse. In comparison with the Trumps, Scott and Jenny Morrison, from the Sutherland shire, Australia more latterly of Kirribilli House look like a well-to-do couple from the suburbs. They are earthed in this big moment, respectful of the tradition they are now associated with, the tradition of Washingtons special friends being drawn to the nations bosom.

Scott
Scott Morrisons arrival in Washington marks the second state visit of Donald Trumps presidency. Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/ABACA POOL/EPA

Presumably they are buzzing with anticipation and anxiety, given that the unofficial White House weather forecast for Friday is clear skies, a light breeze and a high probability of catastrophic cyclone once their delegation reaches the Oval Office. Looking normal in this environment takes some doing, but the Morrisons manage.

The troops march, and are duly inspected; the visitors clutch their flags, which flutter gaily in the breeze. The anthems are played. The two couples appear content with each other and the scripted remarks they share with each other and the crowd. Just before the conclusion of the formalities, Austin is back working the fence line to move us, lickety split, to the holding pen outside the Oval Office. Fortunately, the war with Steve seems to have subsided.

Trump
Trump and Morrison review the troops during an official arrival ceremony. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

I wash up near Steve and the other White House wire reporters. One of the group explains to me that Steve is the man if they want to get a question to the president. Trump will answer Steve. Its unclear why thats the case, and I dont ask.

She also gives us tremendously helpful advice: Trump will be on for a rave when we get in there. We are surprised by this. Our assumption was wed be in and out in a matter of minutes. Our river guide shakes her head. Trump, she says, is in an expansive frame of mind. Best we prepare some questions. She also predicts that Trump will struggle to understand our accents. If he doesnt understand, the president will say: Say it. This means ask the question again, she says.

I assume this is some sort of weird in-joke until I hear Trump do just that. Say it, Trump says, narrowing his eyes and curling his lip. Its utterly peculiar, but its an earworm. Once you hear it, its hard to get the locution out of your brain. Say it.

Trump
Trump reacts to questions during a joint press conference with Morrison. Photograph: Sipa USA/SIPA USA/PA Images

The door of the Oval Office swings open and we are thrust into pure madness. The media scrum feeds off the static electricity in the room. It heaves like a wave. Our questions crash on the shore. Thud, thud, thud. Mr President. The Americans in the pool want to know about Joe Biden and the Ukraine controversy a story that will spiral towards impeachment during the week of our visit.

No American journalist gives a crap about Australia, and Morrison, and the second state visit to Washington of this febrile presidency. Fun fact: Emmanuel Macron, back when he imagined he had a talent for Trump whispering, was the first to be afforded the honour. But who cares? Conventions are devalued in the coarseness of politics in 2019. No one pretends to care. Everyone just has to emerge with what they need.

Journalists
Journalists crowd around Morrison and Trump during their press conference. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Once we realise this is going to be nuts a small blazing blitzkrieg at the seat of American power with no rules of engagement Australian reporters also start hurling questions across a range of topics. Trump looks delighted by the disorder. Its where he thrives. Morrison shifts in his seat.

The president lays into the media. We are hopeless, finished, friendless. But Mr President, what about the call? Did you speak to Ukraines new president? It was a beautiful call. Next question. Say it.

The Morrisons sit tight as the stiff westerly blows. The prime minister isnt visibly alarmed but hes hyper alert. Jenny Morrison composes her face into a placid mask until Trump suddenly raises the spectre of nuclear weapons and Iran. I catch her eye at that moment and she startles, ever so slightly. Her eyes, to me, say help me. I catch Morrisons eye a couple of times and the corners of his mouth crinkle.

I am a spectator at this circus but the prime minister isnt permitted the luxury of distancing. Morrison is a peer of the president, a leader of a respectable middle power who has chosen, as the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd puts it with just the right squeeze of lemon during our visit, to play ball with the Mad King to give friendless Donald a friend.

'It
It was a beautiful call. Trump responds to journalists asking about his call with the president of Ukraine. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

The prime minister, unlike us, enjoys the benefit of knowing what Trump really thinks on a range of fronts; he has that baseline to keep him tethered through the rhetorical turbulence. But back in the nosebleed seats we lack those insights. During our 33 minutes in the Oval Office, Australian journalists are on a rollercoaster, hanging upside down, while the president indulges a dialogue with himself about whether to launch a military strike against Iran, or whether restraint is the better course. He lands eventually at restraint but the disorientation is so profound it takes me a while to process thats where weve landed.

Eventually Trump stops feeling all the feelings and we are herded out. I ask one of my fellow travelling reporters whether the president just raised the prospect of nuclear attack, because I fear the sleep deprivation might be messing with my cognition. Hes as knocked around as I am. Yes, he thinks so, but he needs to listen to the recording. TV reporters are wondering out loud how on earth they are going to distil what just happened into a package. How do you do this in a minute and a half?

At the height of my disorientation, I spot Paul Murray from Skys Fox News lite after-dark crew at the back of the room. As we are guided out, Morrison beckons Murray forward and introduces him to the president. This introduction yields an exclusive interview with Trump which includes the simpering question: What do you want to say to your many Australian supporters who wish you nothing but the best in November 2020? I suppose it could have been what was his favourite colour.

Globalisation Stephen Mayne (@MayneReport)

Paul Murray gets his exclusive with @realDonaldTrump but talk about not asking the hard questions. pic.twitter.com/5QnxMW5cHh

September 20, 2019

The madness persists. The day ends with wranglers trying to facilitate some access to the state dinner, which is al fresco, in the Rose Garden. As we are herded through the South Lawn accompanied by the lilt of violins serenading guests and the murmur of clinking glassware and small talk, a secret service guy in night goggles, with foliage in his helmet, suddenly materialises from the bushes and sprints across in front of us.

Mr.
Mr. and Mrs. Trump meet with Mr. and Mrs. Morrison as they attend a state dinner. Photograph: Pool/ABACA/PA Images

Shortly after this our White House wrangler declares this walk off the record, which generates considerable confusion among the scribes. How can a walk to a pool position be off the record? Which bit is off the record? This walk never happened? How do we explain our capacity to bear witness to events at the state dinner? Did we parachute in?

We resolve not to overthink this and press on, and eventually get close enough to see the guests drifting around the Rose Garden: the Australian billionaire box maker Anthony Pratt is hard to miss with his shock of orange hair; the younger Murdochs are there, Lachlan and Sarah, I reckon Ive spotted the mining magnates Twiggy Forrest and the generally reclusive Gina Rinehart, who appears to be floating. I rub my eyes, fearing a fancy. Perhaps Rinehart is not floating, more likely Im swaying, peering through a large shrub, sleep deprived and smacking the mosquitos that threaten my ankles, questioning my life choices.

Fox
Fox CEO and co-chairman of News Corp Lachlan Murdoch (L) and Sarah Murdoch arrive for the state dinner. Photograph: Ron Sachs/POOL/EPA

Hancock
Hancock Prospecting chairwoman Georgina Rinehart arrives for the state dinner. Photograph: Ron Sachs/POOL/EPA

I see Rinehart again the next day, floating (she is definitely wafting like a cloud, because I know Im no longer swaying) into a soiree at the Australian ambassador Joe Hockeys residence, in a white dress with sequins and what appear to be pom poms trailing at the back. Morrisons old chief of staff and new department head, Phil Gaetjens, by contrast, is wandering around in a Wallabies rugby jersey with cut-off sleeves.

While the grandees mingle, Rinehart sets up court with her entourage in a shaded corner of the garden on what looks like a sedan chair, but is actually just a garden settee. The visual cue is Ms Rinehart is receiving guests, as long as they are not journalists. The media mogul Kerry Stokes is also said to be mingling but I dont clap eyes on him.

In Hockeys garden I strike up a conversation with an expatriate pub owner who is now the mayor of Annapolis and is campaigning to tighten gun control. Gavin Buckley, formerly from Western Australia, is an avuncular Democrat at a Republican knees-up, a fish out of water who cant quite believe his luck. Buckley tells me he hugged Hockey for the great honour bestowed upon him.

The whole scene is F Scott Fitzgerald meets the pre-woke capitalism of the 1980s, and the humidity is sending us all bonkers. Servers hand out party pies and sausages with disturbing names like cheese and Vegemite, and bald men in linen sports jackets compete for shade. One of our travelling media pack then proceeds to conduct a mock interview of a new magnolia tree which has just been planted to celebrate the Morrison state visit. With the Magnolia, this is Brett Mason, SBS News. Its a joke, hijinks to help us stay alert when we are hitting that hour of the day when jetlag threatens to take your legs out. But weve crossed the sense barrier and we havent even hit the Trump rally. What could possibly go wrong?

Ohio

Its a voyage with billionaires, this American excursion with Morrison. I confess that this is new territory for me. The cashed-up and politically connected drifted past us during the pomp and circumstance in Washington, and now we are closing in on Anthony Pratt as we speed to Wapakoneta, first airborne and then jammed in Morrisons motorcade with police cars racing past, sirens blaring, to stop traffic on the freeway.