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Inside the world of Nigerian women’s body-enhancing surgeries

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THERE are a million and one reasons why a woman would want to resort to surgical procedures to enhance the beautification of her own body. These reasons include popular acceptance, self-esteem and sexual appeal.

For Taiwo, one thing is sure: she will do a liposuction surgery when she has had her fair share of childbearing. She stresses her shape is inviolable for now.

She says, “I will do liposuction, which is fat removal, after I’ve had my kids. I can only do this if I’ve tried working out and I’m still not comfortable with my tummy fat.”

Olamide Joyce is sold out on the trend, which she says attracts wide support.


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“How come people tend to support people that did their bodies? See how Maria (Chike) became everyone’s favourite because she is light-skinned and beautiful,” Joyce quips.

Stella and Olusegun Obasanjo

A brief history

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The rise of cosmetic surgery and body beautification can be traceable to the 6th century BC. There is a legend of Sushruta who is regarded as the father of plastic and cataract surgery. His legacies are plastic and cataract surgery.

Also in India, reconstructive surgeries were carried out as far back as 800 BC. Sir Harold Gillies is described as the father of modern plastic surgery who helped soldiers solve the issue of facial injuries during the first World War.

In Nigeria, cosmetic surgery gained news traction when a former first lady of Nigeria, Stella Obasanjo, reportedly died from complications arising from a tummy tuck procedure.

Before that, American-Nigerian philanthropist and entrepreneur Modupe Ozolua, in 2001 founded Body Enhancements Ltd, a cosmetic surgery company, one of the first of its kind in West Africa. She also tried to evangelise safe methods.

Modupe Ozolua

Ozolua, has now moved on to humanitarian efforts with Empower 54, providing free corrective surgery to children born with birth defects, as well as medical support to Boko Haram victims, doesn’t regret pioneering the cosmetic practice in Nigeria.

Double board-certified plastic surgeon Stanley Okoro, who runs a practice in the United States and Nigeria, agrees that cosmetic surgery is not a recent phenomenon.

Double board-certified plastic surgeon, Stanley Okoro

“If you go back in time, women always dress well even till the time of the bible. They always tie girdles or corsets to make their waistline smaller so they can look attractive. So this is not new. Plus, when you look good, you feel good about yourself,” he said.

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For him, his motivation for plastic surgery stemmed from his career as a general surgeon who treated accidents, tumours, and surgery. He notes that the reconstruction of the human anatomy after an accident was what drew him to this aspect of the profession.

“While I was a general surgeon, I had a few patients who had breast cancer that required a mastectomy. But then, you may not understand. When you remove a part of a patient’s anatomy, there’s a mental scar that goes with that. So when you remove a woman’s breast, they don’t feel like a woman anymore. The breast in a woman is a sign of femininity.

“In order to reconstruct the breast, we have to involve a plastic surgeon because that’s their training. I was not a plastic surgeon then, so we had to consult one. And that’s how my interest in plastic surgery came from. It was from breast reconstruction,” he stated.

Dealing with the pressure of staying in shape

In Nigeria, the practice has hit the roof, with several actors going for the procedure to enhance their bodies.

Taiwo says that the pressure is on women to look okay.

Before and after pictures of ex-Big Brother Naija Housemate, Season 3, Khloe Oluwabusayo. Credit: DNB Stories

“Why won’t I slay for my husband? Do you think it is easy for you to have lived all your life with a flat tummy only for it to become big? There is no woman that will be comfortable with it, so the easiest way is to remove the fat. They don’t body-shame men. They don’t expect men to look good, it’s always the women,” says Taiwo the mother who may consider tummy-reducing surgery after childbirth

Fastest Shedder

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Maybe Taiwo is not the only one. A show known as ‘Fastest Shedder’ is doing bounds and leaps in its mandate to help obese women lose weight. It is said to be the Nigerian version of ‘Biggest Loser‘ in the United States.

Some of the contestants on Fastest Shedder, a Nigerian reality show for keeping fitness for plus sized women. Credit: CNN

Managing Director of Shedams Fitness, Seyi Olusore, said in an interview that he created the show to help women lose weight and document their growth.

The show is scheduled to last 90 days with 12 challenges and 12 contestants in one house.

The winner is rewarded with a million naira. One significant highlight of the show was a contestant narrating how she lost her fiance and a potential marriage because of her plus size.

Similarly, several contestants revealed how their weight had been a clog in the wheel of their progress, say in terms of fitness, attraction, childbirth and even love.

Nigerian entertainers are not left out of the surgery list

In Nigeria, a plethora of A-list entertainers admitted to enhancing certain aspects of their bodies.

Actress Tonto Dikeh once revealed that her backside was upgraded. So also radio and TV presenter Toke Makinwa. She tweeted that fixing her body was the best decision ever.

Nigerian actress, Tonte Dike

Makinwa tweeted in 2018, “This year, I stopped complaining and changed things. I hated my body, I fixed it, (best decision ever). I hated hanging around certain people who made me feel small; I dropped them, I learned to forgive (I still struggle but it’s a journey), I learned to be at peace. #2018Lessons.”

Toke Makinwa

Karen Igho, Onyii Alexx and Bobrisky among others, were said to have gotten body enhancements. Also, Ini Edo, Big Brother Naija 2019 winner Mercy Eke, and ex-Big Brother Naija housemate Nina Chinonso Onyenobi (Nina Ivy) have been alleged to have had one form of body enhancing surgery or the other.’

Not everyone wants a Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) surgery

Toni Olarinoye, a Nigerian-Canadian, states that she will not undergo surgery despite her plus-size nature.

“I think everybody is beautiful. You know the way they are, no matter the size. Gotta learn to love yourself from within. Even if you’re gonna lose weight or get surgery, make sure the issue you’re trying to fix is not internal. Because after the procedure, outside compliments will not change the way you feel about yourself or your body inside.

“So when people are wanting to do stuff like that, I just encourage that it’s done out of love and not hate for their bodies.”

Toni, however, admits that her plus-size features made her leave Nigeria.

She says the “Major reason I left (Nigeria) was because I wanted to be in an environment where I wouldn’t have to feel insecure about my body. Everywhere in Nigeria is, ‘lose weight this’, ‘you’re too fat that’, and I knew it’s because of my poor lifestyle. Access to better clothing will solve it. And also being away from toxic people. Even family could be toxic.”

Lola, a mother of one response, is simple about it. “I don’t like surgery. I won’t get my body done,” she says.

Statistics have observed a rise in new trends in body-shaping procedures, with a spike in non-invasive fat reduction, as well as surgeries such as breast augmentations and liposuction.

Data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) shows there were nearly a quarter million more cosmetic procedures performed in 2018 than in the previous year.

According to the body’s annual plastic surgery statistics report, there were more than 17.7 million surgical and minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures performed in the United States in 2018, a number that has risen steadily over the past four years.

Similarly, another publication forecast a compound annual growth rate of 7.9 per cent between 2015 and 2022 for the body contouring market, drawing from research and consulting firm GlobalData. This represents an annual increase from $671.8 million to over $1.1 billion.

It also identified 15 markets for its growth. They are the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Japan, China, India, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Russia and South Korea.

The financial implications…

A website, Plasticsurgery.org says the average cost of lower body lift surgery is $7,924, (approximately N3.5 million using the official rate) according to 2020 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

The Double board-certified plastic surgeon Okoro explains that liposuction is the most common form of surgery he does. However, he does surgeries ranging from botox to relaxed wrinkles, liposuction of the neck, and injections to give people cheeks.

He admits to doing lip reduction as several men in Nigeria complain of big lips, and students in school make fun of them. He also said he does breast reduction and lifts, fat transfer and tummy tucks, as well as the Brazillian Butt Lifts, among other things.

“Plastic surgeons earn a decent living and it’s lucrative, but it’s a lot of work,” he admits.

The range is based on what surgery you are doing and how many body parts are involved. Stanley’s range is between $4,000 (N1.7m) and $20,000 (N8.7m).

Botched surgeries

In 2019, the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, petitioned the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Investigation Panel to investigate  Anuoluwapo Adepoju referred to as Dr Anu of MedContour after a patient died in LUTH following a botched cosmetic surgery performed by the doctor.

The hospital management accused Adepoju of professional misconduct following the death of Nneka Onwuzuligbo, an ex-beauty queen, who developed complications after a cosmetic surgery at Adepoju’s facility before dying at LUTH.

The doctor tried to extricate herself by blaming LUTH for Nneka’s death.

Ex-beauty queen, Nneka Onwuzuligbo. Credit: WhisterNG

The sister of the deceased, Vivian Onwuzuligbo, in an interview, maintained that Adepoju was the one responsible for the death of her sister.

Vivian said, “The autopsy result of my late sister showed that Nneka died as a result of infections she got during the surgery. Also, my late sister developed difficulty breathing within 24 hours after surgery while at Med Contour. She (deceased) never walked to LUTH; she was taken there in an ambulance.”

In 2020, popular socialite and Twitter influencer Omotola Taiwo Temilade, aka Omohtee, called out Adepoju following a botched cosmetic surgery on her.

Omohtee stated that she became suicidal and had to spend millions to treat herself after the botched surgery. She said she paid ₦1.2 million for the procedure.

She said, “After the surgery, I started having complications. I started having belly burns, waist burns, waist numb[ness], and after two months, I started having fat necrosis.

“Fat necrosis is when liquid fat that has turned into dirt starts coming out. The thing will just come out like boil, burst, and start to remove the fat.

“Up till now, my waist is still numb. As I stand up like this, my body is not complete. One is bigger than the other.”

She also revealed that she was unable to bathe alone after surgery, and her brothers had to help carry her, and she had become suicidal as a result.

Reacting, Adepoju blamed Omohtee for not following post-surgery instructions.

Popular socialite and Twitter influencer, Omotola Taiwo Temilade (Omohtee). Credit: Naija Super Fans

“Usually, we advise patients on what to do after such surgeries, but they don’t follow medical directives,” she said in response to the narration by Omothee.

“They feel they know how to take care of themselves but blame the doctors at the end of the day when things go wrong. Plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery; people always confuse the two.

“They would say I don’t belong to the National Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (NAPRAS) group, which is an association of plastic surgeons in Nigeria. I’m not a plastic surgeon, and I’ve never dubbed myself one. I’m a cosmetic surgeon.

“I focus on liposuction. The basic requirement for cosmetic surgeons is an MBBS. Every doctor who has an MBBS is a physician and surgeon first of all. That gave me the right to do liposuction.”

In November 2020, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) approved the indefinite suspension of the doctor upon the recommendation of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.

Anuoluwapo Adepoju of MedContour

She was later charged to court, and her surgery outfit was sealed.

In July 2022, the Federal High Court in Lagos rejected the no-case submission by the doctor, adding that the evidence so far tendered satisfied the elements of the criminal charges pending against her.

In 2021, another lady alleged that Dr Adepoju had given her fat necrosis. In a leaked chat, the lady lamented how she was dying in Abuja after the doctor performed the operation on her.

She claimed she was ignorant of the doctor’s precedents, stating she had been living in New York, the United States, and only came to Nigeria recently.

“Dr Anu has done it again. She has been in Abuja doing surgery and giving them infection. Dr Anu gave me infection, fat necrosis. I’m dying in Abuja. I live abroad, I live in New York. I didn’t know about Anu until I came down to Nigeria,” she wrote.

“I haven’t been in Nigeria for 10 years. It was after the surgery that I started hearing things about her. For real, you don’t have to be harsh on me. I just started following you of recent.”

On June 2, 2022, a young woman identified as Christabel Miriam Gabriel, died after undergoing plastic surgery in Lagos, Nigeria.

The late Christabel was said to have undergone surgery at the Cynosure Aesthetic PlasticSurg, but started bleeding afterwards.

A friend of the deceased, Miss Posha @poshcupcake_1, who narrated the incident on Twitter, said the hospital failed to notify her family after she passed away.

The clinic stated that the patient developed complications during the whole process.

On October 7, 2022, 28-year-old Nigerian businesswoman and socialite Amelia Pounds, was the most known recent casualty of liposuction surgery. She died in New Delhi, India, while being operated on at the hospital.

Reports stated that the doctor was heard apologising to her shortly after she passed in a video clip.

Chinonso Egemba, known as Aproko Doctor, who is popular on social media for his healthy lifestyle advocacy, say putting fat in the buttocks is risky, therefore there is a need for due diligence on the surgeon.

 

Okoro also states that patients need to be cautious and not use cost as a surgeon decider.

“You get what you pay for. Some people die from this stuff. A lot of people get injured, but I think people should do their homework to make sure that the plastic surgeon is a plastic surgeon, or at least the surgeon is trained to do what they’re doing. Don’t ever choose your classes based on price. It’s not like a car, and you got a good deal. You got a good deal, but maybe the engine doesn’t work but you got a good deal.”

He stresses that not everything is a doctor’s fault, as some patients don’t follow instructions.

“Not everybody can afford plastic surgery, and not everyone should have plastic surgery. So, the people who want it but can’t afford it go to quacks for a low price. They offer lower prices because they don’t have the proper training and people always get attracted to lower prices. But the real ones will charge you the full price,” he explains.

According to Okoro, plastic surgeons train for a long time in school. In his case, he admits to going to university, medical school, residency, and then another extra training.

He recounts, “For me, I did five years of general surgery training residency, I hope you’re doing the maths. After medical school, I trained for five years. Specifically, I worked as a general surgeon for four years. I went back to school, to train for classes for another three years. So you can do the math; to get to where I got to took a long time.”

For Okoro, preference, choice, and affordability move people to do surgeries, saying average people would never understand why people spend millions of naira to look better.

He stresses that liposuction is the most common form of surgery, which can take 2-3 hours, while recovery could take a week. “For people who do Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL), they can’t sit for a month or so. But liposuction needs a kind of garment to be worn for everything to fit. It does not involve restrictions on seating,” he explains.

He states that there are some swelling and bruises, but it is not abnormal.

Surgery addictions…

The doctor stresses that he has never done a ridiculous surgery before. “However, some people are addicted to plastic surgery. They have the money and means and want to keep looking good,” he says.

He adds that he turns people away if he sees them requesting several surgeries or failing to eat well, hiding under surgery which he likens to Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

Author profile

Experienced Business reporter seeking the truth and upholding justice. Covered capital markets, aviation, maritime, road and rail, as well as economy. Email tips to jolaoluwa@icirnigeria.org. Follow on Twitter @theminentmuyiwa and on Instagram @Hollumuyiwah.

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