Tony John, Port Harcourt
A Medical Director in charge of Health Centre in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, Dr. Aluye Briggs, yesterday, narrated his ordeal in the hands of Nigerian Army, before a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, for carrying out his professional duties in the last election.
Briggs told the Justice Monima Danagogo-led commission investigating the killings, kidnapping and other related acts that occurred during the February 23 and March 9, 2019, presidential and National Assembly, governorship and House of Assembly elections respectively, in the state.
He alleged that the Army threatened and dehumanised him for treating victims of bullet wounds on election day.
“I got a call at about 7am from one of the nurses that individuals who had gunshots injury were at the health centre. I asked her the degree of the wounds. She said two were badly injured and bleeding profusely.
“I said if it is not something we can handle, they should be moved to Port Harcourt. I could not get to the health centre on time, because the entire community (Abonnema) was in confusion.
“It took me almost an hour to get to the facility. As I got to the health centre, I started hearing gunshots from all sides. I went to the waterfront and met JTF. I told them I wanted to close the facility to save my head. The commander said no, that if there is anyone with wounds, I have to treat the person,” Briggs said.
The medical director disclosed that they treated between 18 and 19 victims, before the number of those with bullet wounds became unprecedented.
“We treated about 18 or 19 persons. But, when the problem increased, the number of persons with gun wounds increased astronomically. I cannot give the exact number.
“We were there till 5:05pm, and JTF operatives stormed there in their numbers. I told them not to shoot anyone there. They were in their battalion, and were so tensed and scared. They came and asked me ‘where are the criminals hiding.’
“They started breaking the doors, threatening to shoot me; and they gave military slap, tore my clothes and used their military boots to hit my waist. We (including other health workers) were dehumanised. They took us in their Hilux van to Bori Camp (6 Division).
“When we got there, we were ordered to sit on the floor. I was questioned on why I should treat them. I told them doctors are not to segregate, be it religious affiliation, political or tribes.
“I told them (Army personnel) that we are to treat everyone including our friends and enemies. Under the Geneva Convention, 1949, doctors have three charges. ‘We should not take part in violence or fight; we should treat all casualties irrespective of religion, tribe and three, we should speak the truth to the warring factions”, he explained.
Briggs told the commission that he and other colleagues were freed after 73 hours, through the intervention of the Nigerian Medical Association and other medical professional bodies.