By Hamilton Nwosa(Head, The New Diplomat’s Business and data tracking desk)
The Lagos state chapter of the Nigerian Medical association (NMA) has ordered all its members to commence a state-wide stay at home strike beginning from 6.00 p.m. today, reports News Agency of Nigeria(NAN).
The NMA which issued the directive via a statement signed by its Lagos state Chairman and state Secretary, Saliu Oseni and Ramon Moronkola, respectively noted that their action stems from confusing and contradictory orders by Lagos state government officials on the one hand and law enforcement authorities on the other hand.
According to the NMA there seems to be lack of harmonization of positions among the state government officials and law enforcement authorities , a development which has led to the arrest of some residents including workers on essential roles in various parts of the state. These essential workers, NMA said include health workers, doctors and nurses, among others.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that in order to enforce strict compliance with the curfew regulation imposed on the State by the federal government, the police authorities had on Tuesday stationed road blocks and barricades in various parts of the state. The NMA alleged this has resulted in consistent harassment of its members.
In its statement, the association said: “The Lagos State Branch of the NMA has resolved that it is presently unsafe for its members to continue to provide healthcare services under the present confused arrangement.
“We resolve that all doctors under the auspices of the Nigerian Medical Association in Lagos to proceed on a sit-at-home starting from 6.00 p.m. today, May 20, indefinitely.
“Until such time when the state government and the Commissioner of Police, 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 statement further added: “It should be advertised in the social and mainstream media, and a copy submitted to the Secretariat of the Lagos State Branch of NMA.
“Whereas, the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari, through the Presidential Task Force 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 evening with several cases of harassments and intimidation of doctors and other health-workers by officers and men of the Police Command in Lagos State.
“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.”
The NMA alleged that given the seeming existing lack of harmony in perspectives between officials of the Lagos state government and the Lagos State police command, it is has become increasingly difficult for its members to comprehend how the state government officials and the state police authorities want to enforce the restriction order in a manner that ensures NMA members including all essential workers such as nurses, doctors, are not harassed while carrying out their official duties.
Recall that NAN had reported that the Federal Government had imposed a 8.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m. curfew as well as a restriction of interstate movement nationwide. The action is to help stem to escalation of the pandemic.
In its pronouncement, the federal government was quite categorical that essential workers cutting across sectors such as healthcare, media, agriculture, oil and gas, among others, as were exempted. According to NAN, it is however unclear how this is being implemented by both the Lagos State government officials and Police authorities in the state.