Tony John, Port Harcourt
Few days after the Rivers State Government relaxed the 24-hour curfew imposed on the entire Oyigbo Local Government Area of the state, following the violence that erupted in the area, members of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS), otherwise known as Pirates Confraternity, have donated some healthcare items to residents to cushion the effects of the health challenges they suffered.
The state government had, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew with the deployment of soldiers to Oyigbo, after it was reported that hoodlums suspected to be members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) hijacked the #EndSARS protest and killed 10 security agents. All police stations and courts in the area were also razed.
Before the relaxation of the 24-hour curfew from 7pm to 6pm, many unhealthy reports, including inaccessibility to healthcare services were reported. It was gathered that some persons, including pregnant women, lost their lives. Ailing persons could not access hospitals because of the fear arising from the presence of law enforcement agents in the streets.
Disturbed by the emergency health crisis, NAS, a humanitarian group, visited the Comprehensive Health Centre, Oyigbo, to assist and encourage the management with their ‘little tokens.’
Daily Sun gathered that even the health workers were, at a point, threatened by security operatives to close the centre.
However, handing over the items to the management, president of NAS, Port Harcourt II, Mr. Chilaka Nwaogu, said the donations were in fulfilment of the group’s core values and humanistic ideals. Nwaogu explained that the gesture was in response to the crisis, which the people of Oyigbo had passed through within two weeks of the 24-hour curfew.
He also promised to make additional donations, based on what the hospital’s needs in the nearest future, noting that the creed and humanistic ideals of the organisation were to “care for those who cannot care for themselves.”
He said: “As an association, we believe in humanistic ideals, we also believe in the attainment of an egalitarian society. So, in line with that, we do humanitarian services like these whenever we can. We try to identify areas where we can come in and offer assistance.
“Oyigbo has been in the news of recent and we felt there were bound to be humanitarian crises as people were locked up by the 24-hour curfew for almost two weeks, without access to necessities like medical supplies.
“So, we felt one of the ways we could help was to come to a government health facility such as this one here, and offer them some supplies and also find out from them other areas which we can be of help in the future,” he said.
Also speaking, President of NAS, Port Harcourt I, Mr Ken Henshaw, said the donation was well timed. He also recalled that the people of Oyigbo were cut off from medical care while the 24-hour curfew lasted in the area.
Henshaw urged the government to always apply restraint when dealing with citizens, saying that it was improper for the government to unleash the military on non-combatant citizens.
“I think that the government needs to inculcate the spirit and attitude of restraint. When there is crisis between law enforcement agents and the citizens, the government should exercise restraint. The citizens were not combatant. They are citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and they deserve to be treated as citizens.
“We, however, condemn in totality the fact that people committed crimes, killed law enforcement agents and burned down police stations. That is condemnable and Pirates Confraternity condemns it.
“Nobody has the right to take the life of another person or destroy people’s property. We declare those who carried out the act as criminals. And in dealing with criminals, you use the Police Force not unleash the military on non-combatants. That was a bit in excess,” Henshaw said.
He further noted that the funds spent on the medical mission and other advocacies by the association, were personally sourced from members who believe in the ideals of humanity.
Henshaw said NAS was not replacing the government whose responsibility it is to cater to the wellbeing of the people.
Items donated included hand sanitizers, face masks, anti-malaria drugs, antibiotics, bandages, antiseptics and methylated spirit.