…Petition Buhari Over Failure To Honour Agreements
By Chioma Umeha
The end to crisis in the health industry is yet to come as agitation among workers in the critical sector took fresh dimension Monday, who passed a vote of no confidence on the leadership of Professor Isaac Adewole, the Minister of Health.
The workers under the auspices of Joint Health Sector Unions/Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (JOHESU/AHPA) said it took the action against Prof Adewole for his alleged failure to fulfil his agreements over the welfare of its members.
In an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari dated December 7, and signed by Com. Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, its National Chairman, and Com. Ekpebor Florence, the National Secretary, the health workers demanded that President Buhari restructures appointments at the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) to balance the interest of all the cadres of health professionals.
This is because the public health institutions, if functional, remained ‘the easiest points to access healthcare by the poorly remunerated working class and the recession stricken/unemployed masses of Nigeria’, the letter read.
“In the last few years, our sensibilities as healthcare workers and professionals have been traumatised, albeit in unprecedented terms. Government appears to have wittingly compounded the situation by conceding privileges to one profession in a multi-disciplinary sector, while refusing to implement agreements and valid court orders in favour of other health professions,” it said.
The union also demanded that the ministry must cater for the multi-disciplinarily inclined interest of the respective stakeholders.
It lamented that the unwholesome agenda had been the trend since the immediate past dispensation of the Jonathan Administration, but that it deliberately exercised some restraints and patience to allow President Buhari Administration to settle down.
“Our decision to give the new administration full support was first dealt a decisive blow through the nature of appointments that confronted us in the health sector.
“We observed, rather tragically, that the two ministers in charge of the Federal Ministry of Health were picked from only one profession. This was a repeat of the precedence set by the Jonathan Administration that boomeranged with unprecedented strikes and disharmony in the health sector because of the dubiety in handling labour matters except that the current scenario was compounded with the addition of another Medical Doctor as Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health.
“An added twist to an already bad situation was the appointment of Dr. Chris Ngige, a renowned medical practitioner, as Minister in charge of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, which normally should arbitrate on all trade disputes, including those from the health sector,” the union said.
JOHESU/ AHPA had in an earlier communication with the Presidency catalogued the dangers ahead with regards to pending welfare issues for health workers when the heads of the Federal Ministry of Health and Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity were doctors.
It said that in 2015 when the trio of Prof. Isaac Adewole, Dr. Enahire and Dr. (Mrs.) Amina Shamaki, were appointed to lead the Federal Ministry of Health, in addition to the appointment of Dr. Chris Ngige, as minister in charge of Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, it made it clear that danger loomed with regards to fulfilling the professional destiny of all health workers, apart from doctors, because of the peculiarly skewed nature of the appointments.
“As it stands today, we have been vindicated by the deliberate methodologies of motion without movement in the approach of the Federal Ministry of Health and its Labour & Employment counterpart in the quest to advance and entrench our various welfare initiatives grounded in collective bargaining agreements, court judgments, existing circulars and negotiated demand list.
“We find it necessary to put on record that we negotiated at the level of the Presidency through processes supervised by the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, from January to August, 2014.
“These agreements and resolutions had also been earmarked for immediate implementation after we met former President Goodluck Jonathan twice in February and March, 2015.
“At the inception of this administration we waited for the agreements to transcend into reality, but government was not forthcoming until we initiated contacts with the office of the SGF in 2015. The only concrete efforts to energise our demands flowed from the appointment of the late Barr. James Ocholi, who was then a Minister of State in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment (FMoL&E )to lead discussions to actualise our welfare demands.
“Late Barr. James Ocholi, took the assignment seriously and everything pointed to the possibility of breaking the deadlock in our prolonged negotiations with the Federal Government before his most unfortunate demise. It took several months of inaction to again get the office of the SGF to impress it on a most unwilling Dr. Chris Ngige led FMoL&E to continue the process of dialogue with JOHESU.”
It said the body language of both the FMoH and FMoL&E had always revealed their unwillingness to realistically solve the problems inherent in giving the union a sense of fairness and justice in the scheme of things.
“This led to the seven-day warning strike in June 2016, after postponement of ultimatum eleven times amounting to 92 days. Every effort to ameliorate the unpalatable welfare situation of our members at the meetings we had with the FMoH/FMoL&E teams on June 20, 21 and 30, 2016 suggested the Federal Government was bent on frustrating JOHESU/AHPA. The Federal Government team requested for copies of agreements, court judgments, MoUs as well as the justification which we supplied very well ahead of time.
“The FMoL&E on this basis fixed our next meeting for July 28, 2016. It was therefore a major embarrassment that we were confronted on July 27 at about 4:00 p.m. when our members had arrived for the July 28 meeting advertised for 10 a.m. that the meeting was postponed indefinitely because the FMoH was not ready.
“We find it necessary to declare in apocalyptic terms that we are most disappointed at the disposition of the leadership of the FMoH which has still not changed after the nationwide strike of health workers from September 21 to September 30, 2017, necessitating fresh agreements sealed on September 30, 2017, but which remains stalled till date,” the union said.
JOHESU listed the alleged compromises of Prof. Adewole, the Health minister, which it said continued to jeopardise members’ collective professional privileges and rights as citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
This bother on welfare of health professionals and workers; assault of JOHESU leaders at Irrua Specialist Hospital, Irrua, Edo State; plight of nurses in the employment of Rivers State Government; unending impunity of JUTH management, experience of nurses; deliberate attempts to stall the establishment of the National Post-graduate College of Medical Laboratory Scientist and events at FMC, Owerri, Imo state.
JOHESU is an umbrella body made up of five registered trade unions in the health sector namely Medical and Health Sector Unions of Nigeria (MHWUN), National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes, and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Education and Associated Institutions(NASU).