Vanguard (Lagos)

22 August 2014

Nigeria: Sack of Striking Doctors

editorial

THE decision by the federal government to terminate the appointment of striking doctors in its employ following their obduracy not to end the strike they started since July 1, 2014, is as condemnable as the strike itself.

The government, in a surprise move, had through a letter signed by the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Hon N. Awute, informed the striking doctors of President Goodluck Jonathan's decision to terminate the Residency Training Appointment, which affected some 16,000 doctors in federal government hospitals nationwide. It immediately brought the striking doctors to the streets in protest. It thus worsened a situation that required an urgent solution in the face of the threat posed by the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak.

We are surprised and dismayed that governments at state and federal levels never learn from their experiences when it comes to tackling protracted Labour challenges. Yes, indeed, the apparent ease with which public sector medical professionals abandon their duty posts in pursuit of ephemeral and selfish matters has been roundly condemned by members of the public, and the ground for the ongoing strike was no exception.

The doctors remaining adamant even when the nation is faced with the daunting Ebola emergency smacked of cowardly desertion. Happily enough though, both the federal and state governments have been able to manage the crisis quite commendably, thus making the striking doctors seem irrelevant.

However, we caution that since the sacking of striking workers never yields any positive result but almost always ends with government being forced to reverse itself, it should no longer be deployed as a tool in resolving Labour issues. It is simply not possible to effect mass sacks in the public sector. If the threat is taken to maximum extents, it is soon broken by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) mobilising the entire work force of the nation against it.

Government, being the institution vested with the power to solve society's problems, must realise that two wrongs cannot make a right. You cannot cut of the head because it has headache. Crisis is part of human interactions, and it requires intelligent, diplomatic and expert handling to resolve it.

The purported mass sacking of workers is not a democratic practice. It is a throwback to the military mentality that depends on threats, intimidation and raw force in tackling human problems, and they always never solve problems at their roots.

We call on the government and their employees in the medical and health sector to resolve their differences amicably, and enunciate strategies for nipping problems in the bud. Workers must also put the nation first even in the pursuit of their legitimate rights.

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