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Anambra doctors issue ultimatum over arrest of colleague by police

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Anambra doctors issue ultimatum over arrest of colleague by police

The Anambra chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) gave a 72-hour ultimatum on Monday for the release of a member from police custody, failing which members would withdraw their services.

The association issued the ultimatum in a statement issued in Awka by Dr Jane Ezeonu and Dr Frank Ifeanaeme, Chairman and Secretary of the chapter respectively.

It condemned what it called the “abduction’’ of one Dr Ofodile Ekweogwu, a Consultant Neurosurgeon from his clinic by men suspected to be from the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) on Saturday, March 16.

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It explained that Dr Ekweogwu treated a patient, Cpl. Ifeanyi Okona of the Nigeria Police Area Command, Nnewi, who sustained head injuries from a road traffic accident in January successfully and discharged him.

“Rather than pay his bills, even after he was given discounts as requested, Okona absconded from the hospital by scaling the perimeter fence.

“He later returned to pay part of the bill and was allowed home on self-cognisance to complete the payment afterwards.

“Rather than pay the outstanding bill, Cpl. Okona, resorted to using intimidation to escape payment,’’ the NMA alleged.

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It explained that the harassment started in February when Cpl. Okona, in company of armed policemen stormed Dr Ekweogwu’s clinic and whisked him away.

It added that a superior police officer who learnt about the matter cautioned Cpl. Okona and asked him to pay his outstanding medical bills.

“Not satisfied, Okona, in company of some policemen suspected to be from Anambra SCID trailed Ekweogwu as he was leaving his clinic in Nnewi on Saturday, using a Toyota SUV (not a branded police vehicle).

“They were four armed men in mufti identifying themselves as policemen from SCID; they grabbed Dr Ekweogwu and whisked him away in the back of the vehicle.

“He was able to place a call to his wife to alert her of his situation before his phone was taken from him and switched off.

“They were in transit for more than three hours driving around parts of Anambra while Ekweogwu was being threatened to `settle’ with Cpl. Okona before getting to the police station, but he refused,’’ the NMA stated.

It added that upon arrival at the SCID, Dr Ekweogwu was made to write a statement in response to a petition showed to him.

“After that, they drove him to Nnewi at night to get evidence of documentation of care he rendered to Cpl. Okona.

“Following calls from leaders of our association, Dr Ekweogwu was reluctantly released on the order of the Commissioner of Police, Mr Aderemi Adeoye after he was informed about the incident.

“After Dr Ekweogwu was released, Cpl. Okona threatened verbally that he would use other means to get back at him if the matter was not handled to his satisfaction by the police,’’ it added.

The NMA also demanded the immediate arrest, investigation and prosecution of Cpl. Okona and his collaborators.

It demanded an undertaking of full responsibility for the safety of Dr Ekweogwu signed by Cpl. Okona as NMA would hold the police responsible for any harm on the doctor or on members of his family.

“We condemn in the strongest term, the kidnap, torture, attempted extortion, mental assault and threat to life of our member, whose only crime was treating a police officer, successfully and demanding payment for his services.

“A 72-hour ultimatum is hereby given for a satisfactory response to these demands, failing which we shall seek legal redress.

“We may not guarantee industrial harmony at the expiration of the ultimatum and shall employ means to protect our members from any similar assaults from men of the Nigeria Police,’’ it stated.

The NMA expressed appreciation of the Police Commissioner, Mr Adeoye, the Nnewi Area Command and Anambra government through the Commissioner for Health for their prompt intervention.

Reacting to the development, police spokesman in Anambra, SP Toochukwu Ikenga, said the police took Dr Ekweogwu in because there was a petition written against him.

Ikenga said the Police Commissioner, Mr Adeoye already ordered the release of the doctor and was on top of the matter.

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