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Breaking: Lockdown harassment by police: Lagos NMA asks doctors to start stay at home protest

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Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health

In response to what it called ”conflicting directives of government and law enforcement agents on the status of essential workers,’ the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association has ordered its members to stay away from work from 6pm today.

This is even as the national chairman of the NMA, Francis Duyile, in a separate directive, said ‘with effect from today, Wednesday 20th May, 2020, all medical and dental practitioners should henceforth work between the hours of 8.00am and 4.00pm, to give enough time for them to return back home.’

The NMA was reacting to mass arrests of essential workers – including doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and journalists – in Lagos yesterday by the police who said they were enforcing presidential directive on restriction of movement. The Inspector General of Police has since rescinded the order.

Mr Duyile, in his statement issued in Abuja, and titled: ‘Directive to Members on Scheduled Work period,’ said:

“The NMA observed with dismay the pains and anguish foisted on our members returning from and going to work on Tuesday 19th May night by security operatives who arrested and detained them in the name of implementing the lockdown curfew. This to us is not in line with the directives given by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and hence is unacceptable.

“Based on the foregoing, notice is hereby given to all Medical and Dental practitioners that since the security operatives have unilaterally withdrawn the exemption given to us by Mr. President as essential service providers as seen in some States and the FCT, I wish to state as follows:

“That with effect from today, Wednesday 20th May, 2020, all medical and dental practitioners should henceforth work between the hours of 8.00am and 4.00pm, to give enough time for them to return back home.

“This measure is to stop our members from working late and mitigate the embarrassment to our members in the process of carrying out their lawful duties.

“Further update will be communicated to members when this unfortunate directive from the Inspector General of Police is reversed.”

The Lagos chapter of the NMA however went further in its response by asking members to stay home.

In its directive, signed by Dr Saliu Oseni and Dr Ramon Moronkola, president and secretary respectively, the association said it was not safe for its members to continue to go to work until the situation becomes clearer.

Its statement reads:

Whereas the directives of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhamadu Buhari, through the Presidential Taskforce on COVID 19, was clear on the exemption of essential workers including doctors and other health-workers from the ongoing lockdown/movement restrictions, the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, has been issuing conflicting directives on social and mainstream media to the effect that essential workers, including doctors and other health-workers are NOT exempted.

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 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.

This time around, while it is still unclear how the Government and the Lagos State commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu will wish to operationalize 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 resolved as follows;

1. That ALL doctors under the auspices of the Nigerian Medical Association in Lagos proceed on a sit-at-home starting from 6pm today, Wednesday, 20th May, 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 operationalize the lockdown/restriction of movement directive as it relates to essential service and service providers, including healthcare services and doctors.

2. 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.