Ebonyi State Governor David Nweze Umahi after Wednesday’s security meeting added native doctors to the state’s current, big headaches. He issued a seven-day ultimatum to native doctors and traditional medicine dealers to register or risk arrest and prosecution.
Unless provisions are made for holidays, anyone not registered by 5 May 2021 cannot be a witch, wizard, fortune teller, seer, necromancer, charm maker, bone mender, or retail the products of these enterprises whether as rings, amulets, charms, bracelets, necklaces, eyeliners, poisons, lipsticks, and medicaments.
They may not make these native products for personal use or gift them to others. Consumption of the products from unregistered practitioners or consulting them rank as offences.
“We have agreed that all native doctors in the State and traditional medicine dealers must within seven days (from) today register with the Commissioner for Border Peace, with the Commissioner for health and with the Commissioner of Police,” Umahi said.
“There will be an Executive Order to this and anyone that is caught doing otherwise will be arrested and will be prosecuted.”
Umahi should have been a soldier. He gives orders then scrambles to legitimise them. His tendencies to rule lawlessly are expressed again in this move.
How did native doctors become the major challenge Ebonyi faces that their fate should be determined immediately? How does registration of practitioners start “today” without a law stating who native doctors and traditional medicine dealers are?
Umahi’s antecedents are well-known. He is smart, relishes power and often thinks after acting. He abhors any powers outside his control. In Ebonyi, he is almighty.
When Umahi speaks no questions should be asked. Ebonyi is his and everything thereof. In this instance, we can assume it is a “security matter” since the order was given after a security meeting.
The Ebonyi native economy is richer than rice. Native doctors make a fortune from charms. There are stories that most communal clashes are theatres for testing potency of charms and other native products traditional medicine dealers peddle.
Put simply, native doctors are security risks. Umahi is not one to ignore a security risk.
Some claim to know him better. Umahi’s interest, they say, is controlling these native economic practices. Is the registration free? Would they not need annual renewal of their practice licences? Will they pay tax? Suppose certain items of their practices must be purchased only from government?
The Governor could have discovered an oil well to mollify the impact of dwindling revenue from Abuja. Imagine what can be raised from thousands of native doctors?
Umahi is establishing himself in a sphere none of his colleagues considers important to internally generated revenue (IGR). He could become Nigeria’s foremost Governor/Native Doctor, with full rights to assume additional titles. He could also acquire right of first refusal to all charms produced in Ebonyi.
A little advice for the Governor – current tension could escalate when you cause thousands of native doctors to troop to Abakaliki for registration, cramp them in uncertain spaces (Covid-19 is still around), make unknown demands on them, set a deadline without facilities to meet it, deny the ordinary people their major access to medicaments and rural medical services.
There must be better ways of executing this lofty project with minimal disruption of lives. Umahi can get counsel from the thousands he keeps as aides. If he has no advisers on native doctors, the time to appoint them is now.
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.Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues