27 May 2018

Nigeria: 40 Days of Johesu Strike - Timeline of Nigeria's Health Sector Crisis

The ongoing health workers strike clocked 40 days today (Sunday). The strike is one of the biggest blows Nigeria's health industry has suffered.

The strike was called by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), a body of all other health workers except doctors. It has left millions without care.

Since 2014, they have been asking government to increase their pay and improve their members working conditions among other demands.

Before the strike started, JOHESU warned that it will be a 'mega strike' that will shut down not just federal health institutions but the states and local governments too; and they made good of their threat.

The impasse - now on its 40th day - has caused many deaths. Patients are currently passing through untold pain and their relatives are grumbling as both federal, state and local government health institutions have been brought to their knees.

The situation is even worse for pregnant women and nursing mothers in dire need of either post or ante-care. This is because essential staff, nurses and midwives -- some of the most influential members of JOHESU -- have all downed tools.

"This is the most unprecedented strike in the history of the health sector because not only federal but both states and local governments joined for the first time", the National Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Ogbonna Chimela, said Sunday morning in a phone interview with PREMIUM TIMES.

"The other ones (previous strikes) lingered for months but the state and LGAs did not join. This is very unprecedented; though it's not the best but government made it so."

On whether the strike will be called off anytime soon Mr Chimela said, "We have already crossed the Rubicon, so there is no going back. We cannot risk our lives and that of Nigerians and just suspend the strike without having any tangible thing. If we had gone this far we must have something substantial to show for these months that this strike lasted. Many lives have been lost."

PREMIUM TIMES takes you down the timeline on key happenings so far in the 40 days the strike has lasted:

April 17: JOHESU announces and commences nationwide indefinite strike in earnest.

April 17: Nigerian doctors through the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) say they will not join strike. They described JOHESU as 'illegal' warning government against acceding to their demands.

April 18: Partial observance of the strike at tertiary hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory.

April 18: Nigerian government threatens to invoke the 'no work no pay rule' rule if JOHESU persist in their strike.

April 21: JOHESU called a bluff of the federal government's threat to invoke the 'no work no pay rule' rule.

April 23: Nigerian government sets up committee to reconsider the demands of the striking health workers.

April 26: PREMIUM TIMES predicts five things likely to happen in Nigeria's health sector if JOHESU strike persists.

April 29: Nigerian government and JOHESU hold crucial meeting on the strike.

May 1: JOHESU counters government's claim that it has implemented 14 out of 15 of their demands.

May 5: Meeting between the union and the federal government deadlocked.

May 9: States and local government health workers join strike.

May 10: Nigerian doctors threaten to go on nationwide strike if government accedes to JOHESU demands.

May 13: After series of deadlocked meetings, JOHESU confirms an offer from government which they say they are 'considering. '

May 14: Striking health workers accused of incessant attacks on doctors and patients.

May 15: Health Minister, Isaac Adewole, direct all heads of medical institutions to provide adequate security for the working members of staff to prevent harassment and molestation by JOHESU members.

Prof. Isaac Adewole. Minister of Health

May 17: JOHESU attributes government's 'slow pace' towards implementing its demands to the threat by doctors. The workers accused the health minister of posing a 'body language' that militates against resolving the impasse.

May 18: JOHESU calls for immediate removal of Mr Adewole, the health minister accusing him of bias and a major barrier to the resolution of the ongoing nationwide strike.

May 24: Nigerian doctors oppose JOHESU's call for the sack of health minister.

May 25: Senate President Bukola Saraki meets with the Minister of Health, Minister of Labour and JOHESU leaders in a bid to end the ongoing strike.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki [Photo: Nigerian Pilot]

May 26: JOHESU confirms receiving an order of interim injunction from the National Industrial Court compelling it to immediately resume duties. The body however says strike will continue.

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