Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has lashed out at organised labour in the country, saying it has destroyed the nation more than its contribution to it.
Speaking, yesterday in Abuja at a 'Governance Matters' roundtable organised by Development Alternative Incorporation, DAI, the governor said the excesses of the trade unions must be curtailed.
"Trade Unions have never served the country well. They have been selfish and everything is about their narrow interests. In general, in Nigeria, trade unions have been a danger to our progress and I think they should be curtailed.
"The mistake we made as a country was placing trade unions in the Exclusive Legislative List. If the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has an issue with the Federal Government, then the state universities will go on strike too. In Kaduna, I warned the Kaduna State University, that if 'you ever go on strike again because of somebody else, I will fire all of you.'
Advocates "very low" minimum wage
"I think we need to do some things. First, take labour matters out of the Exclusive List because many of us are victims of agreements reached with ASUU by the Federal Government. The states were never part of such agreements. Secondly, is the issue of minimum wage. Except we set a very low minimum wage, there will continue to be issues especially with states that do not have wide tax net. You cannot set the same minimum wage for Lagos and Jigawa. Also, we must apply the labour laws strictly. No work, no pay, because there has to be a trade dispute before anything strike. That is what the law says.
"I think the health unions have been the most irresponsible because only an irresponsible doctor will abandon his patients even after swearing to the Hippocratic Oath. I think Nigerian doctors are the only ones on the planet that go on strike.
"We have submitted our report on true federalism and it will be taken to the National Assembly. We hope the National Assembly will stop dealing with inanities and deal with the real issues," he said.
The governor also accused some past governors of Yobe and Borno states of being responsible for the emergence of the Boko Haram sect due to their negligence of the education sector.
"We tended to have ignored this problem (of out of school children) but this problem, when ignored, gave us Boko Haram. If you look at education statistics in Yobe and Borno in 2003 and 2004, you will reasonably predict that Boko Haram would happen within a decade. So, this is a huge problem", he said.
Labour reacts, berates El-Rufai
Reacting to the outburst of Governor el-Rufai, organised labour, yesterday, said the governor was an embarrassment to public office in Nigeria, describing him as anti-people and a chameleon.
General Secretary of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said Congress was not surprised by what were credited to the governor because he had been an anti-labour person with penchant for breaking the labour laws of the land.
He said: "The country has a better moral standing than the likes of el-Rufai who has demonstrated that he is not fit to hold public office or political position. He is an embarrassment to public office in Nigeria. He speaks out of both sides of the mouth. He always changes position for his personal aggrandizement. This is the same el-Rufai who once gate-crashed into one of NLC's protests and pleaded to have NLC apron to be part of the protest."
Similarly, President of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, Joe Ajaero, said: "He is anti-progress, anti-people and does not see any good in something progressive. If el-Rufai praises anybody, know that such a person is about to die. He prefers money to human beings as he has demonstrated in Kaduna. We are not surprised at his views. We want to know if he is speaking for the APC government or for himself. His comments are challenges to labour movement.
"If he is speaking about the civil servants in the state, he can say whatever he likes. But he cannot generalize, if he does, we will take him on. We will make him to eat his words. People like him have their places in history. His will not be different. He is who is he is. He could not have said anything different. He has a history of inflicting pains on the masses. He did so when he was the FCT minister and he is presently exhibiting same in Kaduna as governor."
Federal health institutions over-staffed
On his part, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole said the federal health institutions are over-staffed while there is a dearth of health officers at the primary healthcare level.
"Let me state that Nigeria has a large stock of human resources, the problem is that of distribution. There is a wide gap between the North and South. Over 60 per cent of our human resources are concentrated in Lagos and Abuja and the rest have little to cope with.
"There is a state in this country with 23 doctors and 24 hospitals. That means we do not even have one doctor for one hospital. I was at Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital and they said they needed more staff and I said no, that we are over-staffed at the federal level. Over 80 per cent of our resources is dedicated to personnel cost and we cannot really deliver on our mandate while the large chunk of allocation is for personnel and then you have a situation where the states cannot pay salaries," he said.
Treat every incidence of malaria as Lassa Fever
Meanwhile, as part of measures to curb the growing incidences of Lassa Fever, the Federal Government has advised medical doctors and other health practitioners to handle all suspected cases of malaria with extreme care, urging them to first treat such cases as Lassa Fever.
"Lassa is entirely a disease that should stay among animals but we have animal-human barriers being jumped and then we are affected.
"When healthcare workers are infected, everybody coming in contact with that worker is in trouble and that is why we believe we need to do certain things. We can treat Lassa fever when we detect it early. We are telling our health workers that it is not every fever that is malaria. In the past, once there is fever, they treat malaria for three, four, five days and when there is no improvement, they change to typhoid fever and treat for another one week and by the second week, the fellow with the viral haemorrhagic fever would have had a renal shut down and start bleeding and then is gone beyond treatment. So, what we are saying is that no one should treat malaria without diagnosis. There are rapid diagnostic tests to treat malaria. So, once you check and it is not malaria, you think Lassa straight away. You have just lost a few hours not two weeks and every suspected case must be treated as a case of Lassa until proven otherwise," he said.
Earlier, Managing Director, Governance, DAI Global, Jeremy Kanthor said the organisation was determined to make a lasting difference in Nigeria.