The Lagos branch of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), has directed its members to embark on an indefinite strike over alleged police harassment.

The NMA is furious because on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, some of its members were reportedly harassed by police officers and prevented from heading to work or heading back home after 8pm; even though doctors and healthcare workers are classified as “essential workers."

In a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country, the federal and Lagos state governments had declared an overnight curfew from 8pm to 6am.

The curfew regime kicked off on May 4.

However, the NMA says there is confusion as to whether essential/healthcare workers are exempt from this curfew as declared by President Buhari or whether the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu and the Lagos Police Commissioner Hakeem Odumosu are asking their personnel to implement a new set of directives.

President Muhammadu Buhari receiving briefings from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 led by SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu. [Twitter/@BashirAhmaad]
President Muhammadu Buhari receiving briefings from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 led by SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu. [Twitter/@BashirAhmaad]

This confusion has angered the umbrella body of healthcare workers in the country.

In a statement, the NMA 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 proceed on a sit-at-home starting from 6.00p.m today, May 20, indefinitely.

“Until such a 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.

Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi. [Twitter/@akinabayomi]
Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi. [Twitter/@akinabayomi]

"Healthcare workers are 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 can read the full statement from the NMA here.

Truce

However, it appears as though the strike action will be nipped in the bud and that this will be resolved as quickly as possible.

In a statement issued by the spokesperson of Nigeria’s police force, DCP Frank Mba, the police boss says he has reversed the order restricting movement of essential workers.

“All essential workers, including medical personnel, firefighters, ambulance services, journalists, etc, are exempted from the restriction of movement associated with the partial lockdown and national curfew across the federation.

Nigeria's police boss Mohammed Adamu (Presidency media)
Nigeria's police boss Mohammed Adamu (Presidency media)

“The Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Adamu has, therefore, directed all zonal Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and Commissioners of Police to give effect to these exemptions, while enforcing the restriction orders," the statement from police headquarters reads.

Lagos is the epicentre of Nigeria’s COVID-19 outbreak with 2,755 confirmed cases, 623 recoveries and 38 deaths as of May 19.

Nigeria has now recorded a total of 6,401 coronavirus cases, 1,704 recoveries and 192 deaths as of May 19.