“The main reason they have gone on strike is because they seek to achieve and maintain relativity in pay structure of all health workers in Nigeria.”
JOHESU (Joint Health Sector Union) strike may have been rested for now. Its negotiation with federal government hit the rock and it became to ‘your tents O’ Israel.
Dr. Olumide Akintayo, a member of the Negotiating Team and former president of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and CEO, TOGMED Ventures Limited, speaks on the danger ahead.
Let’s begin with JOHESU strike since you are a member of the negotiating team. What is the position?
Perhaps, before I even say anything, I need to correct some big misconception. Fundamentally at the heart of this strike, because the first thing you really want to know is why health workers under the aegis of JOHESU have gone on strike.
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The main reason they have gone on strike is because they seek to achieve and maintain relativity in pay structure of all health workers in Nigeria. I graduated about 35 years ago. When I left university as a pharmacist, in our days, pharmacist and doctors were exactly on the same grade level, Grade level 08. Both of us do internship for one year before youth service. And during internship, Doctors were placed on level 8 step 3 and pharmacist level 8 step 2. Doctors were placed on Level 8 step 3 because of one year difference in the duration of training. And so, after youth service, they move on to Grade level 9 step 3 and we move on to grade level 9 step 2. You see clearly from that that more or less it was the same thing.
Arithmetically there was seven naira difference in our salary wages. They collected N361, we collected N354. So, the difference in salary those days at entry level between doctors and pharmacists was N84.00. Late professor Olikoye Ransom-Kuti was the one who put Nigeria in this mess. Let me say it the way it should be said. He took undue advantage of his closeness to former military president, Ibrahim Babangida and took a proposal on the Medical Salary Scale, MSS. Prior to this time in 1991 all civil servants were on one universal salary scale, the Grade level, the one that you and I know. Since the moment MSS was established there’s been no industrial harmony in Nigeria because that was the beginning of various clamours for exclusive salary wages, discriminatory salary wages in Nigeria. Like I said earlier, we were virtually on the same salary but by the time MSS was introduced the salary differential between Doctors and Pharmacists salaries was almost 200 percent because of one year duration.
In 2009, government caused a memorandum of understanding to be signed that it would maintain relativity, that’s the key word, at all times in the wages of doctors and health workers in Nigeria. In other words, if you adjust one particular salary scale by 5 percent, you must in similar vein adjust the other one by 5percent. Now the beginning of all these balderdash commenced on January 2, 2014 when the delegation of NMA led by the former governor of Delta State, Uduaghan took some NMA members at that time to visit the then President Jonathan, and at the end of that meeting, without any recourse to due process, Jonathan agreed to give a pay rise to medical doctors on the platform of COMESS alone. And that was how that agitation started. Look you have distorted the relativity agreed on in 2009. And so the clamour started. We had a strike in 2013, it wasn’t corrected and then by 2015 election, there was a change of guards. Government under Jonathan had agreed to tidy this thing up, but it didn’t happen. Then there was another strike in 2017. It was an agreement signed between JOHESU that is five medical associations under banner JOHESU and the federal government was represented by this incumbent health minister, Prof. Adewole, and Dr. Ngige as chief conciliator and that was how an agreement was reached.
So what is the state of the negotiation now?
With particular regards to negotiations, the negotiations appear deadlocked for now. The much that I know, JOHESU has officially withdrawn from the negotiations. Let me put this on record, in very good conscience, President Buhari is a Nigerian that somehow I give some credence for his famed anti corruption stance and some level of integrity people generally believe he has. But I see on a critical appraisal that some
of the things that have ruined or attempt to ruin this government remain the quality of appointments the president makes. Take for instance, security of life, one of the cardinal responsibilities of any government, is not happening probably because some persons are not where they are supposed to be. But with specific reference to health sector and I will continue to say it, even at great risk, at great threat to personal security, President Buhari set out to fail deliberately in the health sector ab initio.
It is because of the quality of his appointments in the health sector. Look, I once said and this is about 2014-2015. I once took position that it is only former President Jonathan who has perpetrated this type of madness. What type of madness? The appointment of two ministers, minister of state and substantive minister from the same profession, medicine, in charge of federal ministry of health. I call that one madness, but I really have not found the right word to call what President Buhari did. Because when President started his appointment in late 2015, the substantive minister of health was a doctor, the junior minister was, and even the permanent secretary, a lady, originally was medical doctor. After so many protests, she was removed because she was just creating and generating entropy in that ministry. Doctors are poor managers of men, that’s why they can’t run businesses, go and check their private hospitals, the few that thrive today are those that have exercise common sense to bring in CEOs who are seasoned administrators/ managers. That is why they have ruined all the public hospitals in Nigeria, checkout the legacies of the leadership of doctors in Nigeria-Negative health indices-infant mortality, maternal mortality, exportation of oral polio virus to other climes, fake drug syndrome. That’s why I said President Buhari set out to fail.