Airforce Officers assault Medical Doctor over COVID-19

A medical doctor in Port Harcourt, Dr. Avwebo Otoide has narrated an ugly ordeal she faced in the hands of Airforce Officers in Port Harcourt, Rivers State over Coronavirus lockdown.

Read his story below:

"On Monday 18th of May 2020, at 5:10pm, I was walking along Ohiamini-Psychiatric road, off Rumuola, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. I had just come out of my house, and was heading for a hospital where I was to cover a night duty shift.

It was strolling distance from my house and there was a little drizzle at the time, I didn't mind. I was armed with my Medical IDs and the pass issued by the attorney general of the state. I hadn't gone any distance when I saw a light blue Hilux with military personnel and a light blue luxury bus behind it.

The red and blue lights on the Hilux were flashing although there was no siren on, so I assumed it was an escort convoy. However as they got closer to me, one of the 2 armed personnel standing behind the Hilux jumped down, brandishing his weapons with the nozzle of the gun pointed at me, he shouted 'Stop there!'.

I stopped and looked at him. I told him you don't need to point your weapon at me, just ask me who I am.

He asked 'Who are you?' I said I was a medical doctor, just as the words left my lips before I could pull out my ID card, he landed a heavy slap on my left cheek, I was dazed for a moment. I heard him say ' Are you the first doctor?'

By the time I looked up all the personnel (except the drivers) in both vehicles in combat uniform had surrounded me.

I looked up in shock , I said to him I told you am a doctor and you hit me??? The excuses started immediately, 'You did not identify yourself, why will he hit you if you identified yourself?' Another one said 'You must have been rude to him' I recounted our interaction that lasted less than a minute before I was hit and asked them, when and how I succeeded in being rude, and deserving a slap? Another said I was pointing my fingers at him.

With all these excuses and no apologies forth coming. I felt infuriated. I told them this matter was not going to end as simply as they thought it would. I looked at the vehicles, they had no number plates. The personnel were dressed in green combat trousers, military issue boots and black T-shirts with the armed forces emblem on the arms. Most had black face masks on, covering the lower half of their faces. Most had no name tags or forms of identification.

The few officers in full uniforms started to shift away from me. Sudden one told all the others to get into the vehicles and leave me. Immediately, I took out my Samsung phone hoping to capture their images for future identification. An officer forcefully took my phone away from me. I waited till their backs where turned and brought all my second phone, an infinix phone, they noticed my actions quiet late and were panicked. I was roughly picked up and pushed into the luxury bus, all my protests fell on deaf ears. I looked around, there was no soul in sight to witness the brutal treatment I was receiving. I asked where I was being taken to, and no one answered me. They attempted to take away my second phone, I struggled to keep it. They began driving away. I was asked to seat at the rear of the bus while they huddled to the front. There were two males and a female personnel in the bus with me apart from the driver and another man at the back seat.

I immediately stood up so I could see where I was being taken and started making phone calls. I called my medical director, NMA Fin Sec, some of my senior consultants. I tried taking pictures. The bus stopped briefly and an officer named Bass MO (name on his uniform) attempted to forcefully take my phone away, this time he damaged the screen in the process, I refused to let go of the phone. My colleagues kept calling and I kept talking and giving as much details as I could. I eventually made a short video that I sent out immediately to our association page, just in case.....

A senior officer came from the Hilux and told them to stop struggling with me and to just drop me at the isolation centre. The vehicles made a U-turn and took me to the Isolation centre at the liberation stadium. When we arrived, I was still on a call, was asked to come down and another struggle to take my phone away, ensured. In the midst of the struggle I noticed the Hilux carrying the man who assualted me had made a U-turn and was about leaving the stadium. I beaconed on an individual who appeared to have some authority, telling him I was a doctor and I was assualted by those men and I only wanted their pictures or some form of identification. He said I was not allowed to take pictures there. Of course, nobody paid attention to what I was saying, instead, they were trying to get me to sit on the ground like everyone else, who had been brought in by the sting operation teams. I kept receiving calls for members of NMA, who were trying to reach me. The police officers around also demanded I hand over my phone, I refused.

One of the personnel from the bus went to a man in jean trousers and a jersey and handed my Samsung phone to him. He also gave some report. I was unaware of what he said after which they entered the bus and left. They all left about a minute after we arrived. I kept asking isolation centre officials to detain those individuals so their identities could be captured but no one paid any attention to my words. Doctors working at the isolation centre recognized me and came over to meditate. The man in jeans was said to be the boss (Mr. Orekefe). He claimed I refused to calm down and talk to him, that since I was so unwilling to cooperate he would ensure I spent nothing less than 24hr detention at the isolation centre.

A police officer tried to take my phone from me again, I protested, explaining that it contained evidence, so I couldn't hand it over. He lead me to a gated area and locked me in. My phone was taken by a female police officer (Chukwuemeka Gary), I was told you couldn't have your phone in police detention.

Few minutes late, I heard a shout from Mr Orekefe, that they should bring me out, he handed his phone to me saying the attorney general of the state wanted to talk to me.

I took the phone and for the first time in several minutes, I was spoken to with dignity. He introduced himself and asked me what happened, I explained. He apologized and said I would not be detained. He asked me to return the phone to Mr. Orekefe.

After the call, Mr Orekefe apologize on the behalf of the air Force officials who had assaulted me. He promised they would get to the bottom of things but said as the young men had left it would be difficult to trace them. He asked a police vehicles to take me home.

I have had a mild but persist headache since that assault. I am not worried for myself, because as a doctor, I have a voice, am backed by an association that would fight for me, but what about others not as fortunate?

So if anyone, steps out of their house to buy a drug at the pharmacy just 3 houses away, they may be slapped, thrown into a bus and taken to the Isolation centre???

My abusers think they can mouth excuses like, you did not identify yourself and you were rude, and get away with such lawless and unruly behavior. If the next time, they shoot I am asking for a return to sanity and respect for humanity. Avwebo Ochuko Otoide (Medical Doctor)."