Anti-concessioning protest turns bloody in Owerri


A member of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Imo State branch, participating in a peaceful demonstration against the concessioning of public health institutions by Governor Rochas Okorocha was on Thursday shot in the head.
The victim, Dr Bede Azudialor, a Consultant Physician with the Federal Medical Centre , Owerri, was allegedly shot in the head by anti-riot policemen drafted to monitor the demonstration by the doctors.
The victim was first rushed to the emergency unit of Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri, from where he was moved to the intensive care unit (ICU) and, thereafter, relocated to an undisclosed hospital.
The State Chairman of the Nigerian Guild of Medical Doctors, Dr. Darlington Akukwu, who briefed newsmen on the incident in Owerri, announced the commencement of a three-day warning strike by doctors in the state following the incident.
“ Following the shooting of our member, doctors in Imo State will from today commence a three-day warning strike during which the Nigerian Police Force must name the policeman that shut our member.
“The warning strike beginning from February 4, will last for three days and if after the expiration of three days, the person who shot at our colleague fails to come out, doctors will start an indefinite strike action’’, Akukwu said.
He urged the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Solomon Arase, to compel the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Taiwo Lakanu, to produce the culprit who perpetrated the act.
Akukwu further urged President Muhammadu Buhari to thoroughly investigate the matter.
The march was organised by the NMA in Imo State, to protest what they described as the “anti-life’’ policies of Governor Rochas Okorocha.
The march was said to have started from the NMA office on Port Harcourt Road, Owerri about noon.

It was gathered that when the doctors got to Orlu Road junction, Owerri, anti-riot policemen in about 10 Hilux vans started throwing tear gas canisters on the group during which a gun was suspected to have been fired, which injured the doctor.

“It was in the process of tear gassing of the group that Dr Bede Azudiaro fell down and raised alarm that he had been shot in the head, with blood gushing from his head.

Earlier, the state chairman of NMA, Dr Hyacinth Emele, had told journalists that the association was protesting against the concessioning of public health institutions by the state government.

“Despite NMA’s repeated advice, government went ahead to concession virtually all the state public health institutions from primary to tertiary (health centre, general hospitals and Imo State Specialist Hospitals, and Imo State University Teaching Hospital) and their management.

“The state will stand to lose completely from the assistance of donor agencies and partners like the WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank, Global Fund among others that sponsor immunization, malaria, tuberculosis, family planning and HIV/AIDS services to these institutions.’’

The NMA chairman equally condemned the appointment of a non-doctor as Commissioner for Health and the merging of Ministry of Health and Women Affairs by Okorocha.

Emele also decried the use of armed thugs to attack workers at their duty posts.
“The use of task force to regulate medical practice in Imo is against Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.

The NMA chairman raised alarm over the illicit harvesting and trafficking of human organs currently on going in the state. “Lives of residents of Imo State are at great risk over this evil practice.’’

When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Andrew Enwerem, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), said that the police only used tear gas to disperse the protesting doctors when they became riotous.

“Police did not shoot anybody and nobody who is shot on the head will ever remain alive.
“Let them produce a doctor’s report to confirm that it was a real case of shooting on the head. Anybody can pick any blood stained material from anywhere and claim that he was shot”, Enwerem said.


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