From Judex Okoro, Calabar
Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Cross River State branch, has withdrawn its services in all private and public hospitals to protest incessant kidnapping of its members.
The public and institutional hospitals closed down include University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, (UCTH), Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, general hospitals, medical centres, mission hospitals and private clinics and hospitals.
Gunmen had, in the early hours of Tuesday, January 9, stormed the residence of one Dr. Emem Udoh of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, UCTH, Calabar, and whisked him away to an undisclosed destination.
In the process, her abductors made away with her vehicle, television set and mobile phones, leaving behind her 18 months old baby in the care of her little niece.
Investigations revealed that in the last one year, over nine medical doctors in the state have been abducted.
Piqued by the ugly development, the doctors, numbering over 100 yesterday embarked on a peaceful protest to the governor’s office and marched through major streets of Calabar chanting “we need freedom.”
The doctors said any person who needs medical treatment should go to neighbouring states, stressing they will not attend to patients in the state until the government wakes up to its responsibilities with regard to security.
Speaking during the protest at the governor’s office, the state NMA Chairman, Dr. Effiong Mkpanam, said unless the abducted doctor is released, all public, private and missionary hospitals in the state will be closed to patients.
“We are not safe and we want people to know that we cannot go to work because we are not safe. We want unconditional release of Udoh, who is a nursing mother; and, until she is released, all the doctors in the state will sit at home. Anybody who wants medical treatment should go to the neighbouring states,” Mkpanam said.
Also speaking, the NMA Public Relations Officer, Dr. Ernest Ochang, said: “All hospitals, including private and missionary, will remain closed until Udoh is released; and if another doctor or physician is kidnapped, we will shut the hospitals without any notification.
“The litmus test for any leader is security and safety of its citizens. But when we are not safe, we dare say the government has failed the test.
“The government, however, has the test of redeeming itself, which is to bring Udoh back. If she is back today, we will resume work today; but, until then, anyone seeking medical attention in Cross River State should go to neighbouring states.
“If after today Udoh is not released, we will occupy government house, the police headquarters and the DSS office. We will sit there, indefinitely, until she is brought back,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the government, the Secretary to the State Government, Tina Agbor, said government is doing everything possible to secure the release of the abducted doctor, noting that the governor is not happy with the security situation in the state.
“It’s unfortunate that soon after one doctor was released, another one was abducted, and this time, a woman. I am a woman and right now, the state security adviser is on the streets trying to solve this problem. You did not need to come to remind us of our duty, we are doing something about it,” she said.