The Nigerian Police brutality, a doctor’s broken teeth, medico-legal implications and the way forward

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The Nigerian Police brutality, a doctor’s broken teeth and the way forward

On Thursday 14th Jan, 2017, the Zamfara state chapter of the Nigerian medical Association issued a memorandum, in protest against the Nigerian Police, to all her doctors in the state stating that no medical doctor should offer medical services to any member of the Police and their families. This was in response to the brutality of some police officers on a medical doctor, Dr Amina, where he sustained various injuries and had broken teeth in that unfortunate encounter.

This extreme protest action sums up the long pent-up displeasure of emergency workers against the police since the restriction of operation of motorcyclists in the state and this is not the first incident of such nature. Notwithstanding Dr Amina’s offense of using motorcycle after the hours of permission, such brutality is unjustifiable and spiteful.

The implication of this form of doctors’ protest is multifaceted. First, it suggests that medical doctors in all Police Hospital in the state should deny healthcare to all police officers and the officer’s children, an infringement of their right to life and a big legal palaver if such patients, whether a police officer or their relation, claim malpractice suit.

The law stipulates that should a physician deny anyone such care, the physician should provide all appropriate assistance and ensure adequate follow-up. For the medical association to declare that all police officers should seek healthcare elsewhere without actually making these provisions available to the patients is not admissible in view of the law.

This action can lead to a crippling legal landmine and trigger litigation adventures which may be unfavourable for the medical association and her members. But, who cares if the police takes the Zamfara NMA to court? In this part of the world, court orders are brazenly disobeyed by the high and mighty, courts can be closed at will depending on the whims of the sitting president or governor, might is right and confidence in the judiciary has waned over time.

More so, it paints a discriminatory atmosphere in the discharge of the medical profession and questions the ethics of beneficence enshrined in the Hippocratic oath. Should a police officer be rushed into the emergency room or report to the clinic, would denial of medical service be a legitimate form of protest against police brutality? If a policeman reports to the emergency room with his five-year-old convulsing daughter, would denial of emergency service be a good protest against the police brutality? Will the police officers who meted such injustice on Dr Amina suffer any justice from the injustice meted to the five-year-old girl or other fellow officers?

Indeed, it is agreed that police brutality is a recurring decimal in various cities in Nigeria and their level of professionalism is terrible. So the question now going round is how do we ensure that the police become responsible and pay for their actions? The Zamfara NMA should have sought redress in court even though it’s understandable that the level of confidence in the judicial system is grossly below optimum.

However, for the Zamfara NMA, the courts remain the only viable option for seeking redress despite its limitations. The police should be adequately sensitized about the peculiarity of various health workers and the need to help them in the discharge of their duties. This is the duty of the NMA and the national orientation agency.

Lastly, the eroded confidence in the nation’s judiciary requires a systemic review of the lapses so that it can be able to deliver justice even if heaven will fall!

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About Author

Boris is a medical student, blogger, entrepreneur and student leader at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. As a Women Deliver Young Leader and YALI West Africa Fellow, Boris leads and organizes advocacy activities on sexual and reproductive health & rights, youth engagement and environment.
Whenever he isn’t busy in the clinics, he relaxes with his guitar, strumming away his worries with Asa’s lyrics as a dependable guide

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