By Chidi Nkwopara & Nonso Alozie
Scores of labour leaders from across the country yesterday, stormed Owerri to peacefully protest the return of the embattled Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Dr. Angela Uwakwem.
The protest was led by the national leaderships of Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU, and Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUM.
The aggrieved workers processed peacefully round the major streets of Owerri municipality, singing disparaging songs and carrying placards that amply portrayed their anger and position.
Some of the placards read: ‘Mr. President, reinstating Angela Uwakwem roundly defeats your anti-corruption crusade’; ‘Angela Uwakwem must remain suspended until cleared by the court’; ‘FMC is not a private establishment’; ‘Buhari save FMC from the cabal’ and ‘Buhari protects whistle blowing for sake of anti-corruption crusade’.
Addressing the aggrieved workers, who were stoutly prevented from entering the hospital premises by the police, the National President of Joint Health Sector Union, JUHESU, Comrade Josiah Biabelemoye, fumed that the reinstatement of Dr. Angela Uwakwem roundly violates Public Service Rules.
“The invitation extended to the embattled Medical Director, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on allegations of corruption and her subsequent arraignment in a competent court, is enough reason to change her, instead of reinstating her”, Biabelemoye said.
While saying that “Uwakwem was brought back to office by her cohorts to intimidate workers”, Biabelemoye however reminded her sponsors that labour would not be intimidated or cowed to submission.
“We are fighting a just battle. We are prepared to present our facts to the President, as well as defend our stand in court”, Biabelemoye said.
Speaking also, the National Secretary of the Union, Comrade Obisesan Oluwafemi, directed workers to proceed immediately on indefinite industrial action.
“You should stay at home until further notice. All the labour leaders are in Owerri to protest the ill-advised directive that those who do not want Angela Uwakwem should resign”, Oluwafemi said.
Speaking exclusively to Vanguard at the FMC gate, the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Taiwo Lakanu, said “our sole business in FMC is to protect lives and property”.
On whether any protester was arrested, the Imo police boss said: “There was no reported breakdown of law and order anywhere in town. It is their right to kick against any perceived wrong. The police, in the instant case, only protected lives and property”.
Reacting to the situation, the Chief Medical Director of the Federal Medical Center, FMC, Owerri, Dr Angela Uwakwem, described the protest against her as an act of ingratitude.
She stated this yesterday in Owerri, while briefing journalists on the protest by the members of the National Health Workers Allied Professionals, led by the President, Comrade Biobeiemoye Joy Josiah in the State.
She said, “You remember when this issue started, the Federal Government set up a 12 man committee to investigate what the matter was all about and for them to do a clear job. I had to go on leave to enable the committee investigate me because they say if I remain in office, I will influence the report.
“So, they accused me of many things and after the committee’s investigation, they submitted their report and eventually I was returned to my seat as CMD of the Federal Medical Center, Owerri.“
“What I want to tell our people is that they should appreciate good things, if you have been to this hospital before I assumed office you will notice alot of infrastructure development and the system became functional. “