JOHESU’s strike adds to the killing spree
Under normal circumstances, on daily basis, an average of 20 people are killed in Nigeria from road crashes, robbery incidents, domestic violence and other forms of criminality targeted against human life. An average of 13 people die daily from road accidents alone, judging from the Federal Roads Safety Commission (FRSC) figures. No day passes without people being killed in one way or the other.
We are not in normal times. We are in war times, at least, in the North-East region. The Boko Haram war that began in 2009 has not ended. Though, it has abated, there is no day that scores of people are not killed by suicide bombers or through blatant attacks by the insurgents on hapless villagers. The over 1.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), packed in camps face death daily from very harsh living conditions.
A non-governmental organisation, Food Aid International (FAI), reportedly said that about 3,000 people die daily of hunger and poverty in Nigeria. A survey by the organisation revealed that nearly 14 million people go hungry daily, with half of them being underfed. This class of Nigerians dies slowly and silently in the corners of their homes with no records kept of their deaths.
When it comes to the raging herdsmen attacks in different parts of the country, it is difficult to say how many innocent people are killed daily in Nigeria. Newspapers are awash with screaming headlines of killings in different parts of the Middle Belt and beyond. The end is not in sight as the issue has been politicised.
Against the backdrop of the killing spree going on in the country of which the authorities are overwhelmed, it is unimaginable that another form of death pang would, in all sensibility, be added to further decimate Nigerians that would not be urgently resolved.
From this angle, the nationwide strike embarked upon by the members of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), is most unwelcomed and should be resolved immediately in the public interest. I consider it heinous offense for health workers to embark on strike at a critical time when their services are mostly needed. It simply means that they don’t care about people dying.
Whatever might be the grievances ought to be settled promptly without giving room for casualties that will never be revived after the strike is called off. In all of the circumstances highlighted above through which life is snuffed out of Nigerians, medical services provided by JOHESU members are needed to give succour to the dying or injured. But for JOHESU to embark on a killing strike while government remains insensitive and adamant to their demands shows the low value given to life in Nigeria.
As a matter of fact, this is not the first of JOHESU’s frequent debilitating strikes. The last strike was suspended only on September 30, 2017 after weeks of devastating outcome. Barely seven months after, the union has embarked on another strike, essentially over the same issues.
JOHESU draws its membership from the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, Medical and Health Workers Union, Senior Staff Association of University Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions, Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals and Non-academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutes.
According to the General Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Mr. Obisesan Oluwatuyi, the strike commenced nationwide last Wednesday. He said they would not call it off until government meets all their demands. He likened JOHESU members to soldiers that have been let loose, no retreat and no surrender until government does the needful.
The strike did not come as a surprise. JOHESU had threatened a nationwide indefinite strike due to the alleged failure of the Federal Government to meet its demands. The demands include upward adjustment of CONHESS Salary Scale, arrears of skipping of CONHESS 10 and employment of additional health professionals. The other demands are implementation of court judgments and upward review of retirement age from 60 to 65 years.
President of the Union, Mr. Josiah Biobelemoye, who issued the strike notice attributed the industrial action to what he described as the “insensitivity and lackadaisical attitude of the drivers of the health sector.” He said the Union suspended its previous strike last year after signing a Memorandum of Terms of Settlements (MOTS) with the Federal Government. The MOTS, he said, was supposed to be implemented within five weeks from the date of the suspension.
Biobelemoye lamented that after six months, government did nothing tangible over the pending issues. According to him, the Union had on February 5, 2018, given a fresh 21 days ultimatum to government to meet its commitments. Thereafter, he said, the Union gave additional 30 working days with effect from March 5, after the expiration of the earlier 21 days ultimatum.
It was only on April 5, he stated, that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, invited the leadership of JOHESU for a meeting where they were told that the issues were being looked into, which the Union construed to mean that government was taking JOHESU for a ride. That effectively prepared the ground for the current strike.
From all indications, JOHESU appeared reluctant to embark on another strike soon after it called off an earlier debilitating one. The failure of government to honour its commitments to industrial unions is to blame.
The question is why government has, times, without number, remained on the same path of dishonor with regards to labour union agreements. The same lackadaisical attitude is visited on doctors, teachers, lecturers, and a host of other unions. What does government gain by spiking industrial action that forces it to run helter-skelter to resolves? There is no way the spate of industrial unrests would augur well for the wobbling country’s economy.
Besides, innocent people are the victims of the senseless labour strikes plaguing the country. There would be no way scores of people would not die as a result of the on-going strike. These are avoidable deaths that have become part of the killing spree plaguing Nigeria.
While government has the duty to live up to its responsibility, JOHESU, on its part should be reasonable and patriotic. Presently, there is no sector of the economy that is finding it easy. JOHESU should not see strikes that kill people as the only weapon to pursue its demands.
By virtue of the harsh working condition in Nigeria, every worker is supposed to go on strike but that would destroy the country. It is frivolous for JOHESU to be demanding the extension of the retirement age of its members to 65 when millions of young graduates have no job.
Given the crushing mass unemployment in the country, it would not be out of place if there is a law liming working age of all cadres of workers to 60 years to give room for youths to get employment.