21 February 2013

Nigeria: Korean Doctors' Murder in Yobe


The shock and outrage that greeted the killing of nine female immunization workers in Kano last Friday week was yet to subside when news broke of another brutal attack in Yobe State.

This one involved the slaying of three North Korean medical doctors, whose residence in Potiskum, Yobe's second city, was infiltrated by gunmen that the authorities, to date, are yet to identify.

News accounts said that the expatriates had their throats slit at their home; one was beheaded. Their bodies bore machete wounds, according to some soldiers who arrived at the scene hours later.

Their names were given as Dr Kim Myong Hak, Dr Jong Myong Zum, and Dr Pak Thee Jong.

The men had been employed by the Yobe State government and deployed to the state's Hospitals Management Board. According to reports, the gruesome conduct took place over several hours and in the presence of the deceased's wives who were unhurt.

From statements by officials of the Yobe State government and the Hospitals Management Board, it has been established that the house had no security guards.

Like the Kano incident, this attack will certainly have the effect, at least in the near term, of putting a chilling effect on the morale of health workers who may consider it unsafe to be on duty.

That scenario could precipitate a serious public health problem, not only in Yobe State, but in the entire North East region.

It was bad enough that in a security-challenged environment like Potiskum the men had had no protection; guards were not posted to their residence. It is highly unlikely that the government that offered them employment did not consider the security deficits that have persisted in the region for over three years now serious enough to give them protection.

The state government had the primary responsibility not to only to offer them protection, but to demand they take it, and to make sure that they had it, even it meant providing them accommodation in Government House.

The state's Commissioner of Police, Mr Sanusi Rufa'I, said that the state government did not inform the police command of the presence of the North Koreans. If that characterisation indeed proves the case, the government has a lot of explanation to do.

However, Mr Rufa'i needs also to clarify his position. The state government may have been derelict in neglecting to inform the police command and the Joint Task Force, through official channels, about the presence of the expatriates. But despite the absence of such communication, it should be quite a routine matter that the police would be aware that there were expatriates in town. So it would not require any administrative procedures to draw the government's attention on the need to provide the expatriates with sufficient security, and the implications of not doing so.

We are aware however, that the government of Yobe State has expressed surprise at the claim of the Yobe state Police commissioner stating that it may be because he is just two months old on the job and that the North Koreans have been in Yobe for years without any incident.

The state government has issued appropriate words condemning the killings, and offering its condolences. But it must also take responsibility that its overall role on the security of the expatriate employees contributed to creating the environment that led to their murder.

It is too late now to do anything for the three dead doctors, but the government can recover by reviewing the situation and ensuring that health workers, particularly the expatriate staff, are given the security cover they need to engage fully in their work.

It says much of the activities of all security agencies deployed in Yobe that nearly two weeks after the incident, no one knows who perpetrated it, and no one is in custody for it.

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