The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Health Care Professionals began its strike last night following an unsatisfactory meeting with the Federal Government.
The decision to down tools was reached after an expanded National Executive Council meeting, yesterday.
JOHESU leaders, at the end of its meeting with government representatives, including Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo and Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunimbe Mamora, were given Saturday September 12 to report back to the government’s negotiation team.
But JOHESU in a three paragraph letter dated September 12 with ref. No. HO/JOHESU/ADM/FMoH/VOL.I/58, entitled: “Re: Notice of 15-day ultimatum/outcome of JOHESU expanded NEC meeting” agreed to proceed on strike.
The memo sent to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, was signed by JOHESU President, Biobelemoye Josiah; Secretary-General, Dr. Silas Adamu; President of Senior Staff Association of Universities Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes, Dr. Benjamin Akintola; General Secretary, Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals, Martin Egbanubi, among others.
However, the Federal Government has directed the various unions under JOHESU not to go ahead with the strike, saying the Ministry of Labour and Employment has apprehended the dispute with the conciliation initiated on Thursday, September 9, which is still ongoing.
A statement by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan said going ahead with the action would be illegal as it was in clear breach of the ILO Principles and Conventions on Strike and Section 18 of the Trades Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. IT also urged JOHESU not to arm-twist or intimidate the Federal Government that had shown clear commitment to tackling the challenges in the sector as evidenced by the huge resources it has been pouring into the sector since the global COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
But President of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Adetunji Abdulrafiu, has vowed that nothing would stop the indefinite strike unless government addressed the needs of health workers.
Also, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said it would unravel its next plan of action if the Federal Government failed to return to the negotiation table and meet the demands of striking lecturers.
National President of ASUU, Prof. Abiodun Ogunyemi stated this at the ‘Town and Gown’ meeting held with parents, students union leaders and alumni of universities at the Africa Hall, University of Ilorin where he gave graphic details of agreements reached with the Federal Government since 2009, but which were not honoured.
“If government refuses to negotiate with us, we will unfold our next agenda. Let’s wait and see; when we get there, we will cross it,”he said.
He said the ongoing strike by lecturers was fuelled by government’s refusal to fund university education and the poor state of infrastructure in the nation’s universities.
“There is a deliberate attempt to kill the university education in the country. Some universities use stoves in their laboratories instead of burners, and buckets to fetch water to perform experiments. It is as bad as that,” Ogunyemi said.
He said ASUU had signed Memorandum of Action (MoA) with the Federal Government on the need for improved facilities in campuses, students welfare, promotion of academics, and welfare of staff, but lamented that these agreements were breached.