From Wilson Okereke, Afikpo
Worried by the alleged increasing complicity of native doctors and traditional medicine people in armed robbery cases and other attacks, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, issued a seven-day ultimatum to native doctors and traditional medicine dealers to register with government agencies or face arrest and prosecution.
He said: “All native doctors and traditional medicine dealers in the state shall register with the Commissioner of Police, Commissioner for Health and Commissioner for Internal Security and Border Peace, within seven days as part of security measures in the state.”
The order came on the heels of crisis rocking the state chapter of National Association of Traditional Medicine Practitioners (NATMP). Herbalists and traditional medicine dealers in the state have been at war over who controls the association prompting the Ministry of Health to put in place a caretaker leadership for them.
While election was scheduled for last March, Daily Sun learnt that some people loyal to the NATMP Vice President, South East, slated an election without securing government approval.
Attempt by the group to conduct an election was stopped by officers from the Central Police Station, Abakaliki. Chairman, NATMP taskforce, Chikwado Nwali, told Daily Sun: “The policemen stopped our election simply because the letter we submitted to the Commissioner for Health, intimating him about the planned exercise was not approved.
“On the particular day of the submission, the commissioner was not around and thereafter, our union’s secretary could not go back until the exact day of the planned election. Notwithstanding, we were advised by the officers through their Divisional Police Officer to go back and obtain approval letter from the ministry before we will come for the exercise.”
It was gathered that government appointed Chief Augustine Ekechi as caretaker chairman even as Rev. Samuel Nwezenyi claimed to be the coordinator of the association. When contacted, Ekechi said practitioners are regulated by the Ministry of Health, disclosing that he had discussed with the commissioner, Dr Daniel Umezuruike, over plan to conduct election.
He claimed that they were provided with some guidelines by the ministry which included purchase of forms by interested aspirants: “Surprisingly, a group of persons discarded government directive and wanted to hold the election without approval. I am not against anybody’s interest rather I believe that due process must be followed as stipulated by the government.
“Since I remain the caretaker chairman, I have the constitutional right to oversee the union’s affairs but unfortunately. Members of the said group in their desperate move to take over the leadership, kicked against government directive, went further and printed other forms which they sold among themselves.”
He insisted that his appointment and leadership were duly recognised and confirmed by the Ministry of Health and to enable the body have substantive leadership March 2021 was unanimously selected for the election. He said his committee set up an electoral body.
He said his committee set up an electoral body: “Our major problem is that the zonal vice president, South East, is desperately projecting his loyalist, being Rev. Nwezenyi, for the chairmanship position. Even before now, he had singlehandedly appointed the same man as the union’s coordinator without considering the fact that there is no constitutional provision for such position.”
Ekechi claimed that in spite of the fact that the factional leaders were not recognised by the ministry, but the zonal vice president is “busy running from pillar to post on how he would impose his subordinate on the practitioners against their wish.”
He alleged that the group discouraged some members from paying the annual practicing fee of N6,000 per person charged by the government and replaced the same government revenue with another levy. He advised his members to remain law abiding while calling on government to wade into the matter to save the union from factionalism.
But Nwezenyi told Daily Sun that he is the authentic head of NATMP in Ebonyi State as duly appointed by the national leadership: “We are the people the national body asked to coordinate and organise election.
“Ekechi’s caretaker tenure has since expired because they gave him one year to do election but he has stayed five years without conducting the election.
“That is why they appointed me coordinator of the association in the state, so that I can help them conduct the election. As far as Ebonyi State is concerned, I am the person in charge of the association.”
On the allegation of stopping license fee accruable to government, the coordinator stated that it was part of his duties as his core mandate was to restore peace in the association and install a new leadership.
However, Umezuruike said: “NATMP is being handled as a parastatal of the ministry, that is how it is done even at the national level. But recently, we learnt that some persons in their usual manner wanted to hijack the leadership but it is not possible because all their interests are protected.”
He explained that it was for the sake of transparency that the ministry charged all the interested persons in the election to go and obtain forms after he had called the members and addressed them on the need to work together.