The nation’s health and medical facilities across the country will be shut down any moment from now as a result of Federal Government’s failure to fulfill collective bargaining agreement reached with the medical workers over adjustment in salaries, privatization, Public Private Partnership (PPP) policies of the government and the new trend of invoking no-work-no-pay policy by those in power.
President of Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Comrade Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, made this known on Monday, as Health Minister, also announced the immediate suspension of eight top officials of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), over the issue of maladministration and mismanagement by officials of the agency.
The suspension is followed up by the deployment of armed security men to the headquarters of the NHIS, ostensibly to guide against flouting the order and directive of the ministry.
Comrade Josiah, who was briefing the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), led by its President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, on the challenges being faced by the health workers and their plan to confront the struggle, said the crisis will “lead to a complete shut down of the health system.”
Already, the MHWUN president said the leadership of the union has been given mandate by its members across the country to shut down the system, adding that all the trade unions under the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), will meet soonest to take a far reaching decision on it.
He said: “Recently, we carried out a survey and our people have also mandated us that whether no-work-no-pay or not, that it is time we shut down the system. That brings us to the issue of concern for Nigerian citizens.”
He pointed out that the union and its members were not afraid to go to the battle field but for a serious concern for the Nigerian citizens who will suffer the adverse effect when the health facilities are shut down.
Comrade Josiah, who was addressing the NLC president, who was at the headquarters of the MHWUN in continuation of his familiarisation tour of unions under the NLC, lamented that the joint agreement reached with the government by the union, years ago when Comrade Wabba was still the president of MHWUN was yet to be implemented by the government.
He said: “In 2014 you fought the battle for salary adjustment; they have adjusted the salary of the medical doctors but the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) you signed with them, they were almost denying them. The Federal Ministry of Health almost denied that such did not take place until we were able to provide the document. But as we speak now, they have not adjusted the salary for us and it has caused serious ripples within the health system and sooner or later it might lead to a complete shut down of the health system because when JOHESU meets we are going to take far reaching decision in that respect.
“I am bringing that up with you for your intervention. Not because we are afraid to go to the battle field but because we have serious concern for the Nigerian citizens. When we shut down, who suffers? It is the Nigerian citizens. It is not those managers of the Federal Ministry of Health that have refused to do what is right at the right time.
“Another threat to the health sector and the workforce in general is the use of no-work-no-pay by the Federal Ministry of Health.”
He explained that after entering into agreements, the government will renege on these agreements, and whenever the workers now decide to embark on strike after the ministry that is responsible failed to listen to them, the same ministry will threaten to invoke no-work-no-pay policy.
“When they don’t want to listen to us, and it is our right to also withdraw our services; what the ministry will do is that they will wait for us to withdraw our services and they will now say they are invoking no-work-no-pay,” he added.
According to him, “another area where the Nigerian poor populace will be denied health services, is on the issue of privatisation, Public Private Partnership (PPP) or concession. Nigerians should not in anyway accept such items.
“At the Garki Hospital, where PPP is operational today, that hospital is out of reach of the poor masses. Card alone was N4,000 and recently increased to N5,000. We then asked, the N18,000 salary earner, taking out N5,000 to take a card, what will he use for drugs and for feeding ofhis family, when N18,000 is not even enough?
“We still believe that public health institution are established for public good and to serve as socio-service point for the commoners. So, we are standing here to say no to privatisation of public health institutions.
“I want to say clearly that these issues, if not nip in the bud, especially the issue of no-work-no-pay, where the employer after reaching agreement through collective bargaining, will renege and violate all the agreement and turn around to intimidate workers; it simply means they are taking away from us the right to protest. That simply means reintroduction of slave labour. That we are slaves and we cannot and should not complain.
“So we want to call on the highest labour body in the country, to say that, that is not the right way for them to operate; so help us to free Nigeria from that problem so that Nigerians will have right to protest and say no to bad government policies and bad governance.”
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole has also approved the suspension of the eight senior officials of the NHIS, in order to pave way for thorough investigation in to the case of Maladministration and Mismanagement by officials of the Agency.
According to a statement signed by the Director, Media and Public Relations of the ministry, Mrs Boade Akinola, the officials affected are: Mr. Olufemi Akingbade (General Manger, Zonal Coordinator South- South Zone); Mr. John Okon (General Manger, Finance Account); Mr. Yusuf Fatika (General Manger, Human Resources and Administration); Mr. Shehu Adamu (Assistant General Manager, Audit); Mr. Vincent Mamdam (Assistant General Manager, Head Insuranc); Mr. Safiyanu Attah (Senior Assistant Officer, Marketing); Mr. Owen Udo Udoma-Senior (Manager, Contribution Management); and Mr. Innocent Abbah (Senior Assistant Officer, Planning Research and Monitoring.)
Mrs Akinola said their suspension was in furtherance to the activities of the investigative panel of inquiry and the desire to have an uninterrupted and robust investigation of all petitions at the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), including Security reports on Maladministration and Mismanagement by officials of the Agency.
According to the statement, the Minister urged the committee “to remain focused, fair and transparent in the discharge of this National task despite the sensation this development has generated.”
The minister also directed the Acting Executive Secretary of NHIS, Mr. Attahiru Ibrahim, to ensure the immediate implementation of the suspension order.
The minister has followed the suspension order with the deployment of armed security men, to ensure that the suspension order by the government is not flouted.