The scheduled calm demonstration by medical practitioners in Imo State, yesterday took an ugly turn when Dr. Bende Azudialo, a member of the state’s branch of the Nigeria Medical Association, taking part in the peaceful protest was said to have been shot in the head by one of the policemen sent to oversee the march by the group. The casualty is a Consultant Family Physician with the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Owerri.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, Dr. Bende Azudialo was first taken to the emergency unit of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, and was later transferred to the intensive care unit and eventually relocated to a hospital not disclosed.
Narrating the story of the gruesome incident during a press conference held in Owerri, Dr. Hyacinth Emele, the State Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, announced the commencement of a three-day warning strike beginning from today (Friday).
As he said:
“If the policeman that fired the lethal shot is not identified and prosecuted, doctors will commence indefinite industrial action. The security agencies and Imo State Government should note that all hospitals in the state will close shop thereafter until the erring policeman is fished out and punished.”
Going on, Dr. Emele exhibited the white overall worn by the wounded Dr. Bende Azudialo, soaked with blood, saying that a team of medical health personnel started working on the wounded Consultant immediately he was rushed to the FMC.
“The initial report we got from the medical team was that Dr. Azudialo lost about 1.5 litres of blood when he was rushed to the hospital and that was a substantial loss.”
Also speaking, Dr. Darlington Akukwu, the Chairman of the Nigerian Guild of Medical Doctors, briefed newsmen on the occurrence in Owerri, and confirmed the beginning of the three-day warning strike by doctors in Imo state consequent to 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 shot 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,” said Akwukwu.
Furthermore, Dr. Akwukwu recollected how the NMA officially wrote to the Commissioner of Police, the Directorate of State Security, DSS, the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, and all other related agencies informing them about the peaceful protest.
In his words:
“We processed peacefully until we got to Orlu Road Roundabout. The police barricaded the road and when we tried to explain our mission to them, they started firing teargas canisters. One of them later fired a shot that wounded Dr. Azudialo”. In addition, a source said: “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.”
Akukwu persuaded the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, to urge Taiwo Lakanu, the Commissioner of Police in the state, to bring out the officer who committed the act. He also asked Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, to investigate the matter leaving no stone unturned.
However, on reaching the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Mr. Andrew Enwerem, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, he claimed that the police only used tear gas to disband the the doctors when they turned unruly. He said:
“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.”
The State chairman of NMA, Dr. Hyacinth Emele, had earlier told journalists that the association was organising the protest in Imo State to cry out against what according to them are the “anti-life” policies of the state governor, Rochas Okorocha.
“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.”
Emele also spoke against appointing a non-doctor as Commissioner for Health and the amalgamation of Ministry of Health and Women Affairs by Gov. Okorocha. He went further to decry the use of armed thugs to attack medical workers. “The use of task force to regulate medical practice in Imo is against Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.”
He also raised an anxious awareness of danger as a result of the illegal harvesting and trafficking of human organs presently going on in the state. “Lives of residents of Imo State are at great risk over this evil practice.”