Stung by the decision of doctors in Lagos to embark on an indefinite strike in the middle of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Nigeria Police Force is reconsidering some of its earlier directives.
Doctors and healthcare workers under the aegis of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) almost downed tools in Lagos--the epicenter of Nigeria’s COVID-19 outbreak-- on Wednesday, May 20, 2020 after police officers refused to recognize their status as ‘essential workers’ and prevented them from moving around during curfew hours.
In a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Lagos and federal governments had imposed an overnight curfew in Nigeria’s most populous city and in the rest of the country from 8pm to 6am.
However, when the police took its enforcement of the curfew up a notch on Tuesday, May 19, most Lagosians kicked and railed. Among them were healthcare workers who would then go on to declare a strike action.
The police command has now backpedalled.
The following essential workers, according to police spokesperson, Frank Mba, are allowed to move about even during curfew hours.
- Medical personnel
- Ambulance service providers
- Fire fighters
- All workers considered essential in the battle against COVID-19.
Here’s how Mba puts it: “The Force wishes to state that it is not oblivious of the sensitive, indispensable, patriotic and frontline role of the nation’s workforce that falls within the category of Essential Service Providers particularly as it relates to efforts to curtail and contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To this effect, all essential workers including medical personnel, ambulance service providers, journalists, fire-fighters, etc remain exempted from the movement restriction orders as well as the national curfew.”
The police force however adds that this exemption should not be abused.
“Consequently, the Inspector General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, NPM, mni has directed Zonal Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and State Command Commissioners of Police to give maximum effect to these orders and extend due courtesies to essential service providers so affected and also ensure that personnel deployed for the enforcement duties respect the fundamental rights of the citizens.
“Meanwhile, the IGP enjoins all workers who fall within these categories not to take undue advantage of their positions and privileges to advance other purposes not connected with the performance of their duties within the stated period," the statement added.
Nigeria has reported 6,677 COVID-19 cases as of May 20.
Densely populated Lagos accounts for a chunk of Nigeria’s tally with 2,954 confirmed COVID-19 cases at the time of reporting.