…Threaten to occupy Health Minister’s office, home indefinitely

By Luminous Jannamike

ABUJA – Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, on Monday, stormed the Federal Ministry of Health, for a protest rally over acts of discrimination and injustice against members of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) allegedly perpetuated by the Minister of health, Prof. Isaac Adewole.

File photo: JOHESU members during a strike action

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Speaking during the rally, NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, threatened that members of the Congress would occupy Adewole’s office and official residence indefinitely unless he rescinds some alleged hostile decisions the Ministry took against JOHESU members.

According to him,  some of the ‘unjust decisions’ of the Minister’s watch include; the disrespect for court orders relating to the dispute between the JOHESU and the Federal Government; the withholding of salaries of JOHESU members for the months of April and May 2018; the refusal to approve headship of hospital departments for other health professionals who are not medical doctors as well as the failure to upwardly adjust the CONHESS salary structure for workers in the health sector and the non-implementation of consultancy cadre for health workers, amongst others.

Wabba, who is the immediate past president of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), said; “This is just the beginning of the struggle. Get your mattresses and cooking pots ready. We’ll occupy both the Minister’s house and office until he sees reason to do justice and fairness in the health sector.

“We are going to deploy all the provisions of the labour laws to ensure we assert our rights and also demand that the court judgment, particularly the NICN judgment, must be respected. We must be paid what is due to us.

“Adewole cannot continue to perpetuate falsehood and think he’ll have peace. He can’t have peace because he has not accepted the fact that he is the minister of health and not only of medical doctors.

“Certainly, he can’t leave visible track records and succeed as a Minister of Health without a well-motivated workforce. How can he alienate 90% of health workers and claim he is doing the right thing?

“He took the unions to court and abandoned the court processes and other dispute resolution mechanisms put in place. He cannot have peace until he is ready to drop the steps he has taken which brought hardships and difficulties to many families of ordinary Nigerians.”

Speaking also, the Chairman of JOHESU, Comrade Josiah Biobelemoye, clarified that the protest rally had nothing to do with the substance of any matter between the Unions and the government still pending in court.

Rather, he said the rally was part of the plan by the NLC to highlight the failure of the Minister to get his team to respect the order of the National Industrial Court which directed that no party should take any action that would jeopardize the peace in the health sector.

He said; “The labour centres (NLC/TUC) have taken over the struggle from us. The dispute for which we are rallying here are not in court. We are rallying against the Ministry’s decision to violate the order of court. They took us to court through a mercenary and turned around to frustrate the court processes.

“We have been explaining to them, informing them that they are violating court order but they refused to obey or retrace their steps. Hence, we are having this rally.

“Recall that on 30, May 2018. When the court said we should suspend action and also ordered that no party should do anything that would jeopardize peace in the workplace. But while, we were in the ADR discussing, the Minister decided to discriminately and corruptly implement ‘no work, no pay.’

“We would have started occupying the Ministers’ office and home from today but because some clerics intervened and said we should give the Minister sometime to see what he would do.

“So, after this week, if nothing happens, we’ll return back to NLC and TUC for a full-blown and indefinite occupation of the Adewole’s office and home.”

Meanwhile, an official of the Federal Ministry of Health who spoke under anonymity because the Minister has not cleared anyone to speak on the matter, told our correspondent that the action of the workers were in bad faith.

“We are aware of what they are trying to do. They want to influence the decision of the court in their favour through public rallies, protests etc. Prof. Adewole is in town but so long as they (aggrieved workers) are here, he won’t come to the office. But, in any case, even if the Minster came, what he’ll tell them is what I just told you about the strategy of the workers to influence a matter that is already before the court as far as we know,” he said.

 

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