LAGOS – The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) has called on the Federal Government to restrict international air travels to Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, as part of efforts to contain the rampaging Coronavirus in the world.
This is just as it asked President Muhammadu Buhari to nominate another chairman for the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN).
Comrade Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, JOHESU National Chairman, made the call Tuesday, March 10, 2020, when he led a delegation of JOHESU/AHPA national leadership on a courtesy visit to President Buhari in Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
Josiah told the President that because of the challenges of COVID 19, there was also a need to restrict movements at the Lagos seaports, as well as unhindered movements via land as the country, step up the total surveillance on all ports of entry.
Josiah thanked the president for prompt release of N600 million to tackle the unfortunate menace of the virus.
“It is our belief that this will take care of essentials including Personal Protection Equipment (PPE),” he said.
He, however, told the President that one of the challenges that had arisen as a fall-out of COVID-19 is that of Drug Security.
“Today the shut-down of major pharmaceutical industries in China as well as banning of exportation of drugs and pharmaceutical recipients from India makes the threat of an imminent drug scarcity in Nigeria a huge possibility because these two countries combine to supply over 80% of the drug needs in Nigeria today.
“The Federal Government must therefore facilitate substantial investments in the pharmaceutical industry especially the building of petrochemical plants to guarantee self-sufficiency in the availability of essential medicines in the health system,” JOHESU chairman said.
He thanked the President for not implementing the advice of stakeholders who clamoured for the privatisation of the health sector which would have deprived the masses of access to affordable healthcare in the country.
Josiah said, “Contrary to pervading impression, JOHESU believes in dialogue, and we continue to excel in the finest tenets of the rule of engagement to ensure the stability and growth of the Health Sector.
“Concessioning is therefore not the issue, but reducing corruption and catalysing good leadership provided by hospital administrators so that we can have proper management of our limited resources.
“The only option that works in the maximum interest of Nigerians at this time is to allow healthcare remain a social welfare service to consumers of health.
The JOHESU/AHPA makes bold to say that the Federal government should admonish the profiteers and greedy entrepreneurs jostling to take over public health facilities to be responsible enough to build their own world-class health facilities like their counterparts in the global arena.”
On adjustment of CONHESS salary structure, JOHESU chairman called for the facilitation and release of funds through Presidential approval to cater for the adjustment of CONHESS salary structure which has lingered since January 2, 2014 Adjustment of CONHESS Scale as was done to CONMESS Scale.
He noted that in 2009 the Federal Government committed itself to a Collective Bargaining Agreement on relativity in the two salary scales that were introduced via CONHESS for all health workers except doctors and CONMESS for doctors.
“The express implication of the collective Bargaining Agreement was that any adjustment on any of the scales would transcend to the automatic tinkering of the other scale by a commensurate percentage. Since 2014 when the Federal Government adjusted the CONMESS Scale holistically, it has further adjusted selectively in 2017.
During negotiations on this matter with a team of Federal Government officials in 2018 led by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, and the then Minister of Health, who incidentally are Medical Doctors, government team presented a memo for the payment of 22.6B as prepared by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) awaiting Presidential Approval.
“We, therefore, call on Your Excellency to kindly approve the payment as computed by the (NSIWC) for justice and harmony to be dispensed to all in the health sector,” he said.
JOHESU chairman also spoke on payment of withheld April and May 2018 salaries to JOHESU members in the Federal Health Institutions.
He said, “We find it extremely necessary to draw the attention of Your Excellency to the challenge of withheld salaries of our members in April and May 2018.
This was hinged on a selective and discriminatory application of the ‘No Work No Pay’ resolution of the Federal Executive Council. It is on record that the controversial ‘No work No Pay’ policy of the Federal Government has never been applied in any sector of the economy.
In one instance, ASUU was on strike for at least three months, yet their salaries were never withheld. So also, the workers in the Research Institutes, the umbrella, Joint Action of Research and Allied Institutions Sector Unions (JORAISU) were on strike for over two months without stoppage of their salaries. Even when medical practitioners (medical doctors) were on strike, no such obnoxious policy was used against them.
“Once again we refer to the 2017 Terms of Settlement we had with the Federal Government on September 30, 2017 which forbade victimisation of those who participated in April and May 2018 strike which was a direct consequence of the failure of the Federal Government to implement the Terms of Settlement within five weeks of signing same.
“Your Excellency, our teeming members expect that after this groundbreaking courtesy visit to you, your kind intervention will make way for a breakthrough.
“One of the biggest demonstrations of the avowed commitment of the Federal Government to work with all stakeholders remains the release of the payment of withheld salaries which has lingered for about two years albeit with great pains to our members. God will give Your Excellency necessary wisdom to dispense justice as you expedite action on this matter,” he said.
JOHESU also called for a Presidential Intervention to redress the choice of a controversial chairmanship designate of the PCN as we re-position MDAs involved in drug distribution at all times and particularly in times of Health emergencies.
Josiah said there was a need to re-structure the regulatory agencies in the drug distribution channels.
He said the quest for self-sufficiency in the Pharmaceutical Sector must be tied to complete reforms and proper restructuring at the key Regulatory Agencies in the value chain of drug distribution in Nigeria today which include the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) National Agency for Food Drug and Control (NAFDAC).
“These agencies need to be better funded and we must insist on the appointments of fit and proper persons in these very strategic regulatory agencies in the public interest.
“As supporters of the government anti-corruption crusade and its penchant for rule of law, we shall always form the needed invincible bilateral consortium the Federal Government needs to actualise its goals and objectives at all times.
“We, therefore, find it necessary, Your Excellency, to draw your attention to the obvious crisis which has prevented the inauguration of the Governing Council of the PCN by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH).
“The crux of the matter here is that the PSN which is the major stakeholder as the umbrella platform of Registered Pharmacists in Nigeria at some point removed one of the two Chairmen-Designates of PCN on its Fellowship list and put him on the Roll of Dishonour of the profession for purported acts inimical to professional interest.
“In view of the reality that the Chairman of PCN is the Statutory Chairman of the Disciplinary Tribunal of the PCN (an equivalent of a Federal High Court,) the stakeholders in health insist that appointing such in a Regulatory Agency would cause integrity problems for the PCN when erring companies and professionals pass through such tainted Disciplinary Tribunals because of their presiding officer.
“Our concern is that the Presidency must intervene now so that the statutory function of the PCN in pharmacy practice matters to ensure the availability of safe and efficacious drugs in registered premises is not compromised particularly because of the evolving challenges of COVID-19 and other diseases.”
JOHESU reiterated its willingness to extend necessary cooperation to the President as he leads the way to embark on the very important assignment of ensuring compliance with all judgements of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) which were issued on March 28, 2019; payment of outstanding 2018 salaries to our members and actualising the adjustment of CONHESS Scale which has been pending for so many years.
Josiah assured President Buhari that JOHESU would continue to collaborate with him as he grapples with the many challenges confronting the country and building a health system that would become a benchmark in the comity of nations.