MEDICAL doctors in Rivers State woke up on Friday, Feb. 27, to learn about the death of Dr Sam Okpara, a 62-year-old veteran in the profession.
Okpara was abducted by some kidnappers, who tortured him to death and dumped his body in a cassava farm near Comprehensive College in the Borokiri neighbourhood of Port Harcourt.  The slain man was one of the six doctors seized by gunmen on February 17, while two other doctors were also kidnapped last year.
As a mark of respect for the murdered doctor, the Rivers State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) declared March 2 and 3 work-free days to mourn him.
The NMA and the public at large voiced their concern over the way Okpara was kidnapped and tortured to death.
They moaned about the dangerous dimension which kidnapping had assumed in the state, condemning the torture-induced death of Okpara.
To worsen matters, the state NMA said that one of the doctors who were abducted from a public hospital in Emuoha, Emuoha Local Government Area, was in a pathetic condition.
Dr Ibifuro Green, the state NMA Chairman, said that the gang invaded the health centre in Emuoha, shot sporadically into the air and captured the doctor.
He said that the doctor was brutally shot in the legs and whisked away by the kidnappers.
Dr Sampson Parker, the Commissioner for Health in Rivers, bemoaned the situation in which some doctors were kidnapped from their places of work, while others were dragged out of operating theatres.
However, Green said that one of the doctors (name withheld) had been flown out of the country for medical attention because of gunshot injuries inflicted on him by the assailants.
“The legs were terribly wounded and there were fears that the victim could lose the legs.
“The scenario is dangerous, crude, inhuman, wicked and worrisome to every right-thinking person.
“Nobody needs to consult a soothsayer before knowing that doctors in Rivers State are going through perilous times; it is just too obvious!
“Doctors now live in constant fear in the state,’’ he added.
zarker and Green, among other concerned citizens, wondered why doctors have suddenly turned into the targets of kidnappers.
Parker, who described the development as “wartime for doctors’’, urged the kidnappers to unconditionally release the two doctors who were still in their custody.
“We wonder why doctors are being targeted for kidnap at this time; maybe the intention of the kidnappers is to intimidate us and scare us from participating in the political process in Rivers State.
“I, nonetheless, urge my colleagues to remain resolute, we should continue to do our sworn duties, even in these trying and difficult times,’’ he said.
Parker described doctors as “arrowheads in all health care delivery efforts’’, wondering why they should be the targets of these dastardly acts.
However, Green noted that the abductors apparently had a wrong notion that doctors were affluent persons.
“We earn the same salary as civil servants; the civil servants’ salary is open to all; N18, 000 is the minimum wage and the whole thing is there for everybody to see,’’  he said.
Green conceded that the only difference in what doctors and civil servants received as pay was the “Call Duty Allowance’’ which was exclusively given to doctors.
He then wondered why the gangsters felt that that they could rake in a lot of money via ransom placed on kidnapped doctors.
Green said that apart from growing number of kidnapped doctors, some faceless criminals had sent Short Message Service (SMS) via mobile phones to three doctors, threatening to abduct them.
He quoted some of the SMS as saying: “So, you are taking us for granted? Very soon, it will be your turn.
“Then, we go see if the police and Army will prevent us from attacking you and your clinic.’’
However, Mr Dan Bature, the Commissioner of Police in Rivers, said that one of leaders of the notorious group of kidnapper tormenting the state was killed in a recent shootout at Obite waterfront in Oyigbo Local Government Area.
He assured the public that the police and other security agencies in the state were working concertedly to hunt down the criminals.
Bature gave the assurance while addressing doctors protesting against Okpara’s death and the spate of doctors’ kidnap in the state.
He pledged that the police would provide adequate security for all the health centres and hospitals in the state, as part of designed efforts to stem doctors’ kidnap.
All the same, concerned observers appeal to the government and its security agencies to make urgent efforts to secure the release of those abducted by kidnappers in Rivers, while initiating new strategies to tackle the menace.