Medical professionals, under the umbrella of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), on Tuesday charged into the Cross-River State House of Assembly and other government buildings in an effort to secure the release of Prof. Ekanem Ephraim, a colleague who was abducted 19 days ago.
In spite of the pouring rain, the doctors protested that it was unsafe for them to practise medicine in the state.
They claim that 14 doctors have recently been abducted, a development they want the authorities to address immediately.
The doctors, in their White coats carried signs that read, “Set Cross River free from the grip of kidnappers” and “Free all persons held captive by kidnappers” as they marched along Calabar’s major streets.
The protesters, led by their Chairman, Dr. Felix Archibong, informed the deputy governor, Peter Odey, that they would visit the Government House each day beginning (today) Tuesday, until their colleague was freed and brought back to her family alive.
The medical professionals reportedly gathered at the General Hospital in Calabar, from where they walked for almost three kilometres to the governor’s temporary office at Dan Archibong Lodge.
The protesting doctors noted that the Governor was not around as they were told that he had left the state. Due to this, they were compelled to go to the State House of Assembly, where they met with the Speaker, Mr. Elvert Ayambem, and afterwards delivered a protest letter to him there.
In a viral video of the protest, the Chairman of the association, Dr Archibong, told the deputy governor, Odey that doctors in the state no longer feel safe.
He claimed that they had returned because, during a meeting with the deputy governor about 15 days earlier, he had given them an assurance that their abducted mother, teacher, and trainer would be freed as soon as possible. Dr. Archibong said they have been waiting for her release for 19 days, but neither she nor the state administration have been seen or heard from.
The Chairman further asked, “To us, it appears as if our government is helpless; that is why we have gathered here to come and see you, and hear from you and tell you that we are not safe. We are afraid and the question is what next? After this woman, who will be the next? We have had serial kidnap of doctors. What is the offence of doctors in Cross River State?
“Is it a crime for doctors to come, stay back, and not travel out to take care of sick Cross Riverans? What have we done? Sir, we have not heard from you and that is why we are here to cry out loud to you that we are tired of hiding. We have seen that security cannot protect us. What should we do, sir?”
The deputy governor addressed the doctors who were protesting and reassured them that the government was working to resolve the situation. He also revealed that three days earlier, security services, particularly the police, had conducted raids at certain locations where they believed she was being detained, but she was not there.
But he said that the police were still looking into the kidnapping and that one suspect had been taken into custody, adding that yesterday, he spoke with the police commissioner about the situation.
“Yesterday, an arrest was made but it is not every arrest we make public because it will make the job of the security agencies more difficult. The doctor is someone I know very well and as a government, we will do everything within our power to bring her back. I will use this opportunity to charge the security agencies to do all they can do within their power to secure the release of the doctor,” he informed the protesting doctors.
The state’s doctors noted that they have now been made targets for extortion by criminals who view them as cash cows.
He reiterated that Prof. Ephraim, a 60-year-old grandmother, has been held captive in a forest for the past 19 days by wicked men who want to extract money from her.
He added that they were tired of having patients who seek their care when they are ill go through this kind of predicament.
“Is it because we have chosen to stay back in Cross River to render our services to the people that we are being subjected to this inhuman treatment?” he asked.
The NMA chairman urged the government to take swift action in order to enable the rescue of the woman and other hostages.
In order to enable the rescue of the woman and other hostages, he urged the government to take swift action.
The chairman further declared that they would continue to show up and protest until their member was released from detention.
In response, the Speaker urged the medical professionals to be patient as attempts were made to free their abducted colleagues.
In order to ensure that incidents like these do not occur again in our state over the next six months, the speaker said efforts are being made to obtain cutting-edge technology to bolster security in the state.