By EMMA AMAIZE
… I didn’t – Commissioner Otumara
THERE was controversy, at the weekend, in Delta State over the allegation that the Delta State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Joseph Otumara, slapped a nursing officer at the Central Hospital, Mrs. Akata Oghenero, just as the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, NANNM, in the state is spoiling for a showdown over the matter.
But the commissioner, Dr. Joseph Otumara, swore to Sunday Vanguard on phone, yesterday, that he didn’t slap Mrs. Oghenero, saying that he only tried to stop her from making calls with her GSM phone while work was going on during his visit to the hospital on March 29.
The incident was said to have happened at the gynecologist ward of the Central Hospital in the presence of many nurses and officials of the Ministry of Health, Asaba.
Otumara said the medical director of the hospital cautioned the nurse to stop her noisy phone call, but she rebuffed the order, adding that it was her defiance that attracted his attention, and action in trying to stop her from disturbing others.
However, nurses at the Central Hospital, Warri commenced a strike action on Friday over the incident and, according to a privileged source, “They are waiting at home for the state leadership to declare a state-wide action from tomorrow (Monday).
But, a reliable source hinted that the bone of contention was being discussed between the commissioner and the leadership of the nurses, and the differences might be sorted out.
However, the Forum for Justice and Human Rights Defence, FJHD, in Delta State, has demanded that the commissioner should tender an unreserved apology to the nurse or resign his appointment.
The group, in a statement by its national coordinator, Oghenejabor Ikimi, stated, “We are in receipt of a protest letter minuted upon and sent to our office by Comrade Ojei J.O, the Central Hospital, Warri Unit Chairman of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives.
“The said letter is headlined thus: Letter of protest: Physical Assault on the person of Mrs. Akata Oghenero, a Nursing Officer II at the Central Hospital, Warri by Dr. Joseph Otumara, Hon Commissioner for Health, Delta State.”
The letter went on: “On 29 March, 2012, while Mrs. Akata Oghenero, a Nursing Officer II at the Central Hospital, Warri was on duty in the Gynae ward of the said hospital, the Honourable Commissioner for Health, Delta State, Dr. Joseph Otumara, and his entourage came into the said ward and, in the process, Mrs. Akata Oghenero, in company of some student nurses who were present, immediately stood up to acknowledge his presence, while the said commissioner and his entourage walked through to the maternity ward.
“Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Akata Oghenero, while seated and receiving an emergency call on her mobile phone, suddenly heard a slap on her right check with a thunderous voice, ‘Why did you not stand up the second time’ and, upon turning her face, Mrs. Akata Oghenero discovered her assailant to be Dr. Joseph Otumara, the Health Commissioner, who was still fuming.
“At that point, Mrs. Akata Oghenero was speechless, humiliated, battered and weeping; there and then, the permanent secretary, Hospitals Management Board, Asaba, requested for the name of Mrs. Akata Oghenero, threatening to issue her a query and relieve her of her job”.
Ikimi went on: “Assuming, without conceding that Mrs. Akata Oghenero had committed an offence while Dr. Joseph Otumara was visiting, slapping a nurse on duty is definitely not one of the ways to discipline an erring public officer and, as such, we call on the said Health Commissioner to publicly tender an unreserved apology to the said Mrs. Akata Oghenero or, in the alternative, resign his appointment as he is not a fit and proper person to hold a public office.
‘’In the final analysis, we shall not hesitate to enforce the fundamental rights of Mrs. Akata Oghenero on her behalf and claim damages at large against the said Dr. Joseph Otumara in person, should he fail to heed to our above warnings”.