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Doctors withdraw services to protest police harrassment in Lagos

Medical doctors in Lagos State have withdrawn their services in protest against continued harassment and intimidation by men of the Nigeria Police.

The police in on Tuesday night threw caution to the wind, as they swooped on persons categorised as essential workers and exempted by the Federal Government’s curfew to check the spread of COVID-19. Medical workers and journalists are among those exempted, but some of were arrested and detained at some police stations in Lagos while heading home after the close of work Tuesday night.

The doctors under the aegis of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) said the action remains indefinite until they receive a written assurance clearing the air on the ‘conflicting directives by the government and incessant police harassment’ of medical doctors and other health workers in the state.

The Lagos branch of the NMA in a statement jointly signed by the state chairman, Saliu Oseni, and secretary,  Ramon Moronkola, said the sit-at-home order is expected to begin Wednesday, May, 20 2020 from 6pm.

They maintained that it was no longer safe for their members to continue to provide healthcare services under the present confused arrangement. They said the development became necessary as a result of the numerous complaints of police harassment from their members who were either going home after close of work, and some on transit to heed to emergency calls at the various hospitals.

The doctors lamented that whereas the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari, through the Presidential Taskforce on COVID 19, was clear on the exemption of essential workers including doctors and other health-workers, the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Hakeem Odumosu, has been issuing conflicting directives that essential workers, including doctors and other health-workers were not exempted.

“As a direct result of the conflicting directives of the government and the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, the NMA was inundated yesterday (Tuesday, 19th of May, 2020) evening of several cases of harassments and intimidation of doctors and other health-workers by officers and men of the Lagos State Police command.  The healthcare workers were either resuming duty, returning home, or on-transit to heed an emergency call.

“There was a most disturbing case of an ambulance conveying an injured patient which was prevented from moving to destination while the attending health-workers were harassed and temporarily detained.

“You will recall that this same ugly situation had occurred sometimes in the early phase of the ongoing lockdown/restriction of movement based on similar conflicting directives from the State Commissioner of Police.  It took the intervention of the Governor of the State, following a petition by the Association, for normalcy to be restored.”

The Lagos NMA further said that until the government and the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu operationalize the lockdown/restriction of movement directive, vis-à-vis the status of essential workers, NMA has resolved that it is presently unsafe for her members to continue to provide healthcare services under the present confused arrangement.

They further demanded for a written statement, signed by government and the appropriate police authorities, with clear terms on the status of essential services, including healthcare services and its providers.

The medical doctors insisted that the statement must be issued and advertised in the social and mainstream media, as well as a copy submitted to the Secretariat of the Lagos State Branch of NMA before they will call off the sit-at-home order.

 

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