15 May 2018

Nigeria: Health Workers Strike - Johesu Accuses Doctors, Health Ministry of Sabotage, Insincerity

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Doctors.

The National Chairman of JOHESU, Biobebelemoye Josiah, has alerted the public on purported efforts by Nigerian doctors to frustrate ongoing talks to end the four-week-old strike embarked upon by the union.

Mr Josiah, who raised the alarm when he fielded questions from journalists in Abuja, also accused the Ministry of Health of collaborating with the doctors in suppressing JOHESU's legitimate demands from the government.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that JOHESU had on April 17 embarked on industrial action to press home its demands bordering on improved healthcare facilities and welfare.

The strike by the union has so far crippled healthcare delivery in public health institutions across the country.

But the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, had on Wednesday confirmed that negotiations were on with JOHESU to end the strike.

He said: "Negotiations are still on with JOHESU and the Minister of Labour is leading the negotiation, and we expect that we will conclude on all issues very soon."

However, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) had in a statement threatened to withdraw their services across health institutions in the country if the federal government acceded to the demands of JOHESU and other health workers.

The doctors' statement read in part: "The NMA wishes to draw the attention of the Federal Government to our correspondence of April 21, 2014, on the above, in which we reminded Government of the collective bargaining agreement we had with the Federal Government of Nigeria in January 2014.

"It is also pertinent to once again remind Government about the concluding part of our letter no. NMA/PRE/SG/03/0751 of 21st March 2014, which states, 'In view of the above, the NMA painfully wishes to inform the Federal Government of Nigeria that any award to the non-medically qualified health professionals that violates the January and July agreements of 2014 shall result in the resumption of the suspended withdrawal of service of 2014. Please take this as a notice, Sir".

"The above reminder is predicated on the extension of the ongoing strike action embarked upon by the amorphous body called 'JOHESU', to States and Local Government Councils, the basis of which is to strengthen its callous and ill motivated agitation for pay parity between her members and doctors with the resultant erosion of relativity and further hierarchical distortion in the health sector vis-à-vis her clandestine romance with some top government officials.

"For the avoidance of doubt, the Nigerian Medical Association wishes to restate her positions on the various demands of JOHESU:

"We oppose vehemently, any adjustment in CONHESS SALARY SCALE with resultant pay parity between doctors and healthcare professionals allied to medicine, and hereby reaffirm that relativity is sacrosanct," the statement read in part.

The president of JOHESU, however, alleged that the two ministers of health were not serious in ending the strike in view of their position in support of the demands of the doctors at the detriment of JOHESU.

He said: "This very agreement was entered into and then a memo was made to Mr President as they claimed even though they gave us a copy later.

"When they made this memo it was in December and the ministry of health defended her budget in February, but did not deem it to include that the amount it worked for the payment or settlement of this very issue.

"This goes a long way to show that there was dishonesty, insincerity from the beginning on the part of the ministry (Federal Ministry of Health) because most probably the minister is a doctor; minister of state (Health) is a doctor and minister of labour who is supposed to be the chief negotiator, is also a medical doctor."

It would be recalled that JOHESU had on Friday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately intervene in the ongoing industrial action embarked upon by the union.

The National Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Ogbonna Chimela, made the call when he fielded questions from State House correspondents at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Vice Chairman of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), Ogbonna Chimela

Mr Chimela, who is also the National President of Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), said the call was informed by the fact the meeting between the union and the officials of the Federal Ministry of Health had ended in a deadlock as there was no common ground reached to resolve the crisis.

He, therefore, stated that Mr Buhari's intervention had become necessary to avert possible collapse of the nation's health system.

According to him, the president was being blanketed from vital information concerning the situation in the health sector.

"From our investigation and from what we know now, we have discovered that our president, President Muhammadu Buhari, has not been well informed of the happenings in the health sector, is like some information are being blanketed; not getting to him because we know whom he is.

"He is a sincere man who has the love of an average Nigerian at heart.

"We know that he is humane and he cannot toy with the lives of Nigerians if he is well aware of this present situation in the health sector we know he would go direct in arresting the issue and resolve it.

"So, we are calling on Mr President to quickly intervene in this matter because JOHESU and its members are not strike mongers, we don't love strike," he said.

(NAN)

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