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Lagos Doctors Begin Indefinite Strike After Police Detain Over 20 Members

Valentine Chinyem

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The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Lagos State Chapter, has directed its members to proceed on an indefinite strike starting from 6pm, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, over what it described as incessant harassment and intimidation of doctors and other health-workers by officers and men of the Lagos State Police command.

In a statement released by the association and jointly signed by its chairman and secretary, Dr Saliu Oseni and Dr Ramon Moronkola respectively, it said that contrary to the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari on the exemption of essential workers including doctors and other health workers from the ongoing restriction of movement, Lagos state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, has been issuing conflicting directives on social and mainstream media to the effect that doctors and other health workers are not covered by the exemption.

The association alleged doctors and healthcare workers who were either resuming duty, returning home, or on-transit to heed an emergency call are exposed to police harassment.

The statement read in part, “As a direct result of the conflicting directives of the government and the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, the Lagos State branch of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) was inundated yesterday (Tuesday, 19th of May, 2020) evening with 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 its 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.

“This time around, while it is still unclear how the government and the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Hakeem Odumosu will wish to operationalise the lockdown/restriction of movement directive, vis-à-vis the status of essential workers, including doctors and other health workers, the Lagos State Branch of the NMA has resolved that it is presently unsafe for her members to continue to provide healthcare services under the present confused arrangement.

“Following an emergency deliberation on this ugly and recurrent situation, the association has resolved that all doctors under the auspices of the Nigerian Medical Association in Lagos proceed on a sit-at-home starting from 6 pm today, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, indefinitely, until such time when the Government and the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Hakeem Odumosu are clear on how they wish to operationalise the lockdown/restriction of movement directive as it relates to essential service and service providers, including healthcare services and doctors.”

The doctors demanded that “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, should be issued, advertised in the social and mainstream media, and a copy submitted to the Secretariat of the Lagos State Branch of NMA.”

It would be recalled that yesterday, doctors who were on transit to their various houses, or on their way to respond to emergencies at work, were detained by the police. Many doctors said they spent their night in their cars, after their car keys were seized.

Doctors were not the only ones affected, as journalists and other essential workers were also detained.

On April 27, President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered restriction of movements between 8pm and 6am nationwide to check the spread of COVID-19.

The president had, however, exempted health workers, journalists and other essential workers from the curfew.

Took the intervention of the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, who the police claim to have gotten their order from, to get the doctors and other essential workers released from detention.