Nurses and midwives in Kaduna yesterday staged a peaceful protest to the Ministry of Health, Kaduna State, over the abduction of two nurses from the General Hospital, Idon, by bandits in Kajuru local government area of the state.
Nurses Grace Zugwai Nkut and Afiniki Bako were taken away from the duty post by bandits who attacked General Hospital, Idon, Kaduna State, in early hours of yesterday.
The protesting health workers decried the insecure environment they now work in most health facilities in the state and called for urgent and more proactive measures to address the situation.
LEADERSHIP Friday reports that bandits had mostly targeted schools and communities.
One of the nurses who managed to escape the kidnappers, Mrs Rifkatu Alfred, told LEADERSHIP Friday, that the kidnappers had earlier demanded N500 million but had reduced it N200 million ransom to release their captives.
Chairman of Kaduna chapter of the Association of Nurses and Midwives, Mr. Ishaku Yakubu, who led other members in the protest, said the lack of effective security at most of the health facilities and the porous nature of most of the hospital had made their members vulnerable to attacks and may be largely responsible for the abduction of their members.
Mr Yakubu, in his address at the ministry, lamented that five of their members had so far fallen victim of kidnapping, while over 100 had earlier been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the state as frontline workers, a situation he described as unfortunate.
He also called on the state government to intensify efforts and ensure that their abducted members are released between 48 and 78 hours unhurt, adding that anything short of that would leave them with no option than to withdraw their services.
"We are not ready to pay any ransom and we want government to secure their release in less than 48-78 hours or we will withdraw our services", he warned.
Yakubu told journalists that most of their members had fled the hospitals in rural areas because of the obvious insecurity at the hospitals, some of which are very porous.
"We have come to express our sadness, displeasure and worries over what has befallen us, especially today. We have been suffering a lot of attacks and the nursing profession as a whole is under attack. Nurses are frontline workers and over 100 nurses were infected with COVID-19 in Kaduna State. The issue of insecurity is what we have brought before Kaduna State authorities - that our facilities need to be secured.
"It is worrisome to note that some of the rural hospitals and health centres in the state are not even fenced, not to talk of having security guards in place. Our nurses have suffered kidnappings in the state; this is the fourth or fifth case of kidnap of nurses in Kaduna State.
Narrating what happened, he said: "This morning, I woke up to the sad news of two of our nurses were kidnapped by gunmen. They invaded the hospital around 12am Thursday morning and they went specifically for the nurses because when they went, they were asking for nurses and they went specifically for those that were in their white uniforms. they were not bothered about the patients or male nurses, they went for the nurses and took them away.
"As we are talking now, we don't know what they are passing through. They are young female nurses liable to rape. The trauma they may be passing through can better be imagined. We are here to request the immediate, quick and unconditional release of the nurses and we are calling on Kaduna State government to beef up security around our health facilities, particularly those in the rural areas.
"Nurses are on the run because of lack of security, and this will affect health care in the state. As it is now, we have no option but to tell our nurses not to appear in white uniforms on night duty since they have become targets. Nurses can no longer go for night duty in some facilities and have to withdraw their services if security is not provided. We are briefed that government is aware and they are doing their best to secure the release of these nurses and we don't want these nurses to stay more than 48 to 72 hours. We demand their immediate and unconditional release," he stressed.
The medical director of the hospital, Dr. Shingyu Shamnom, confirmed the attack on the hospital to LEADERSHIP Friday yesterday morning, disclosing that the bandits gained access to the general hospital through the broken fence, adding that they were heavily armed.
According to him, the bandits shot sporadically in the premises of the hospital, and when two nurses on night duty came out in their uniforms, they identified them as medical staff of the hospital and kidnapped them.
"When we heard gunshots, we remained at our various homes until a call was put through to us that it was kidnappers that invaded the hospital, only for us to discover that two of the nurses on night duty had been taken away by the bandits," he said.
Dr. Shingyu added that "the kidnappers went away with a phone of one of the staff whom we thought was also kidnapped, but he later returned."
Chairman of Kajuru local government, Hon. Cafra Casino, when contacted, also confirmed the kidnap of the two nurses, adding that investigation was ongoing on the matter. He urged people in the area to remain calm.
How I Escaped the Kidnappers - Nurse
Mrs. Rifkatu Alfred was one of the three nurses on night duty at the hospital. She said she narrowly escaped the kidnappers who whisked away two of her colleagues.
Rifkatu, who narrated her experience to LEADERSHIP Friday, said "We were on night duty in the nurses' station when we heard voices in the hospital. We thought it was one of the patients that needed attention or passed away. It was on our way going that immediately we saw Fulani herdsmen heavily armed with guns and shooting sporadically.
"One of the kidnappers stopped my colleague, Grace, while I was coming behind her. Immediately I saw that, I ran to the extreme end of the other side and hid. I don't know what actually happened after that. I escaped.
"Before I escaped, I saw them asking her 'Ina Yan'uwan ki?' meaning (where are your colleagues?). The only thing I could hear her saying is 'blood of Jesus'.
Rifkatu explained that the kidnappers went to the ward to ask the patients about the nurses.
"They only came for the nurses; nothing concerned them with the patients," Rifkatu said.
According to her, when she heard three gunshots, that was when she came out of her hiding place and started making calls to find who had been kidnapped and that was when she discovered two of colleagues had been kidnapped and they left with the security phone's number.
"When they left with the security phone, they called and said they were the kidnappers who abducted the two nurses and if they are not given money, they will kill them."
She disclosed that the kidnappers were earlier demanding N500 million but later reduced it to N200 million.