By Oluwatosin Ajayi
Armed operatives of the State Security Service have shot outside Sheraton Hotel in Abuja to disperse Nigerian doctors who were arriving for an interview for medical positions in Saudi Arabia.
At least one person was injured and had been moved to a hospital in Mabushi neighbourhood of the Nigerian capital, The Gazette learnt.
The secret police officers mounted a barricade outside the hotel to block people seeking to enter through Abacha Estate, according to one of the doctors who identified himself as Doctor Olubanjo in a telephone chat with The Gazette.
“The officers tried to block us from entering Sheraton but some of us insisted that we were on our way for an interview organised by the Saudi government,” Mr Olubanjo said. “But we were forcibly chased away when the officers started shooting into the air to disperse us with threats that they will kill us and no one would punish them.”
The programme was scheduled for 8:00 a.m. and many of them had been arriving at the venue as of 5:30 a.m., he said.
Mr Olubanjo said the organisers later told them the interview had been suspended but wondered why that became the case when a similar exercise held last week at a hotel in Lagos.
According to The Punch, a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, Marcus Fatunde, was arrested at the venue.
Fatunde was, however, released later.
An eyewitness said, “When I came here, we saw the DSS operatives dispersing the people that came for the interview and before we knew it, everywhere had been scattered.
“A journalist with the ICIR, Marcus Fatunde, was also arrested, but he has been released.”
A doctor, who did not want his name in print said, “Some of us, who came here today, came because we don’t even have jobs and we don’t want to do the wrong things.
“Two categories of people were here today: the jobless ones and the ones who are poorly remunerated.
“We didn’t commit any crime; we just wanted a better system. So, why is the government trying to frustrate us?
The Vice-President, Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, Adejo Arome, told The PUNCH that the organisers of the interview confirmed to him that the exercise had been suspended.
He said, “Well, some people got to the venue today (Thursday) and when they didn’t meet anyone, they called me and I confirmed from the recruiters and some other doctors that the recruitment has been suspended.
“The recruitment on Tuesday garnered coverage, because of the media publicity. It was everywhere that doctors were going to Saudi Arabia, he said.”