There are fears that medical doctors and other health workers may soon begin to flee the northern part of the country for fear of insecurity.
The situation may engender epidemics such as Malaria, Cholera, Meningitis, Polio and others if the hospitals and health centres are deserted by health workers.
This follows last week’s killing of nine polio vaccinators in Nasarawa and Taurani local government areas of Kano State and the murder of three North Korean doctors in Potiskum, Yobe State, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
Recently, a consultant physician was killed by gunmen at the gate of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria.
Already, there is palpable fear and apprehension among health workers in the region as many of them are said to have concluded arrangements to leave the North in droves and relocate to the South-South and South-West, where their security could be guaranteed.
The gory killing of the nine health workers has also brought the efforts of the Federal Government to battle the polio virus to a standstill in serious doubts.
The victims were reportedly killed in two separate shootings at health centres in Kano a day after a controversial Islamic cleric spoke out against the polio vaccination campaign.
The cleric was said to have told the people that new cases of polio were caused by contaminated medicine.
Some Nigerian Muslim leaders had previously opposed polio vaccination, claiming it could cause infertility.
The North Korean doctors who were killed inside their homes had no security guards at their residence and typically moved round the city without police escorts.
A source said, “There is likely going to be serious crisis in Northern Nigeria because 80 per cent of the doctors have signified their intention to quit and opt for alternatives in the South-South and South-West, especially Lagos where they will feel secure. They can no longer stay in Kano for the killings lack logic and reason.”
A senior official of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency hinted that the development had become a source of worry to the Federal Government.
He said, “As it is now, nobody is ready to die and I can tell you that many of the health workers are so scared that they won’t embark on such suicidal pilgrimage. Nobody is ready to sacrifice his/her life.”
Reacting to the threat, an Abuja-based surgeon, Prof. Abel Akindoye, told our correspondent that the opposition to immunisation had some religious and political inclinations.
He said, “We have always known that the resistance to polio immunisation in the North is due to cultural and religious inhibitions and that is why we are advocating enlightenment.
“There is this belief among Islamic communities that polio is generally one of the weapons to decimate Muslims and they see it as biological weapons of war to decimate their rank and file.
“To that extent, they have that impression that there are differences in terms of the vaccines made for Western economies, specifically the Christian population and their Muslim counterparts. So, there is this fixated opinion and perception. Once Muslims have that perception, they are always rigid about it, sermonising on it and taking it down to the grass roots.”
Another doctor in Aso Rock Clinic, on condition of anonymity, told our correspondent that the scenario had been compounded by the killing of the Korean workers.
She said, “Everything has to do with cultural and religious misconceptions and factors and which of course boil down to other political initiatives. Cultural and religious factors have been the issues all these years. The government has to do a lot more in terms of advocacy.”
The Kogi State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Omede Idris, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, challenged the government to ascertain the motive behind the murders.
President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, challenged the government to be alive to its responsibilities in the protection of lives and property of health workers.
He said, “These are obvious facts and realities. Let the government go and do its own business. The challenges are obvious and as to whether it will lead to epidemics, that is obvious.”
Also, the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria has expressed fears on the fate of health workers in Northern Nigeria.
The President of AMLSN, Dr. Godswill Okara, wondered why the assailants resorted to “the targeting of health workers who ordinarily are harbingers of good will and succour to the sick and wounded.”
But the Executive Director of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Ado Muhammad, called on health workers to remain calm, saying the killing of the nine personnel would not deter the agency’s personnel in the realisation of its mandate to knock out polio from Nigeria.