Members of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) which encompasses all health workers in the sector except the medical doctors embarked on strike last month to press home their needs and rights from government.
According to various reports many hospitals in the country are closing down making the poor Nigerians who who can not afford to travel abroad or go to private hospitals to continue to die helplessly. Attempts by well-meaning individuals including the President of the Senate Abubakar Bukola Saraki and some NGOs to end the strike action has so far proved abortive.
Funny enough in a major attempt to make the health workers unwillingly come backto work an NGO by name Kingdom Human Rights Foundation International, went to National Industrial Court sueing the leadership for illegally embarking on strike. The court directed JOHESU members to immediately resume to their duty post within 24hours.
In a reaction to this JOHESU filed against the court rulings that it's their rights to go on strike to press home their demands. According to the JOHESU leadership the current minister of health Prof Isaac Adewole is not helping matters but complicated the whole issue that need to be resolved amicably. The Health Minister who is a medical doctor and a gynecologist by specialization has outrightly informed the world and Nigerians in general by his reactions that JOHESU demands can not be made.
At the primordial stage of the strike the minister denied the fact that there was a written agreement between the government and JOHESU. Instead he stated that only minutes of meeting was presented to the ministry by JOHESU.
Recently the Minister called a meeting with Chief Medical Directors (CMDs), Head of Health institutions and Medical Directors of all tertiary health institutions in the country. At the end of meeting, the minister directed them to sack all JOHESU members who fail to resume work. In another efforts to frustrate the Health workers and make them come back to work the government refused to pay them their April Salaries.
The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity has threatened to proscribe JOHESU as a labour union.
Prof Isaac Adewole's counterpart in the ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity Dr Chris Ngige has played some roles in resolving the ongoing strike. Though his attitude was seen by JOHESU members as similar to those of the minister of health. Dr Chris Ngige is also a medical doctor by training. Currently all efforts to persuade the striking health workers to sheath their sword is still in vain.
It was and is still believed that only the President can bring a fruitful intervention. But just yesterday the president while delivering his democracy day speech surprised Nigerians and the health workers by not recognising the ongoing strike. The occasion of the democracy day is one of the few avenues where the president addresses important National pressing issues. The president didn't dedicate even a single statement on the ongoing strike which has grounded the country's hospitals' activities. Many Nigerians and including health workers were not happy about this neglect on the part of the presidency.
The silence by the Presidency can be attributed to either the president was being brainwashed by the health minister about the JOHESU strike or the president attached no importance to the healthcare and the welfare of it's workers. The way and manner in which the ministry of health and Presidency are handling the health workers strike has left many questions unanswered.
The way the government usually handle strike by other labour unions is different from the way it is currently handling the JOHESU strike. For instance, when the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) went on strike all hands were on deck by the concerned stakeholders including the ministry of education, ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity and presidency to end the strike.
The same thing happened when the Residents Doctors where on strike.
We ask Mr President why is this strike taking time?
Why is the presidency still silent about the strike action?
Why is the Minister of health still on seat and not sacked as called by Nigerians through a poll conducted by The Nation Online newspaper?
President Buhari was voted by many Nigerians based on his integrity and justice. The president need to know that the health workers are part of the millions of Nigerians who voted him under harsh sun condition and rains to bring CHANGE for Nigeria.
This is the right time the president need to put his widely quoted statement "I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody" into action. This is the time Health workers demand for the true change in the health sector. Change in both the appointment of head of health institutions and welfare of the workers.
We call on Mr President to call the leadership of JOHESU and intervene. This can prove to all your stance against injustice and corruption.
By Bilyaminu Bala Yahya
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