Nigeria’s largest medical union has instructed its health staff in Lagos to end their hospital shifts at 6pm each day, 2-hours before the city-wide curfew, in response to rising reports of police harassment, writes Emmanuel Akinwotu, the Guardian’s West Africa correspondent.
There is an 8pm curfew in Lagos under its gradually easing lockdown measures, but in recent days reports have been rife of harassment and abuse by police officers to essential workers, after 8pm.
The Nigerian Medical Association president, Dr. Francis Faduyile, told The Guardian that authorities were policing the lockdown curfew indiscriminately.
“Yesterday a lot of senior doctors were stopped from going home after hours by police,” he said. “We should be asking them why they are doing this.”
“Doctors will stay at home after 6pm to prevent themselves from being embarrassed and molested by police officers,” he added.
Lagos’ lockdown curfew exempts essential workers, yet there is insufficient clarity between different agencies on who qualifies. Faduyile said the government needed to clarify to police that health workers were essential.
Yesterday videos and pictures showed police in different parts of Nigeria’s most populous city, mounting roadblocks after 8pm for hours before letting commuters go.
Security agencies policing the lockdowns in Nigeria have come under scrutiny amid reports of abuses.
Lagos is the most affected city in Nigeria’s Covid-19 outbreak, with 2,750 of Nigeria’s 6,400 infections. Cases in the country continue to rise, doubling in just over a fortnight, but test capacity has only marginally improved over that time.
Africa’s most populous country has administered just 37,000 tests, “a far cry from what is needed” Faduyile said, and low compared to other African countries. Neighbouring Ghana and South Africa have tested 170,000 and 475,000 respectively.
Compounding challenges with the availability of test kits, poor infrastructure had made it hard to distribute its limited supply, and to transport test samples around the country, Faduyile said.