Address delivered by Comrade. Dr. Ogbonna Obinna Chimela, National President, Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) an affiliate of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria at the 7th Quadrennial Delegates’ conference held at New Keffi Hotel, Akwanga road, Keffi, Nasarawa State between 17th and 21st June, 2019.
It is a pleasure for me to formally recognize and welcome very important dignitaries that got our invitation and are here physically or in representative capacity to grace this occasion of ours.
May I firstly welcome the Governor of Nasarawa State Eng. Abdullahi. A. Sule, the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, The Honourable Minister of Health, the Registrar of Trade unions, His Royal highness Alh. Shehu Muhammadu Chindo Yamusa III (Ph.D)., of Keffi land and his chiefs. The President, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, Com. Bobboi Bala kaigama, the President Nigeria Labour Congress, Com. P. Wabba, my brother President, Com. Joy Bio Belemoye, National Chairman JOHESU and National President of Medical and Health Workers union of Nigeria (MHWUN), other JOHESU leaders present, National Presidents and General Secretaries of other sister unions in the Health Sector, leaders of all professional Associations in NUAHP, past leaders of this union, especially Com. Pa. F.O. Adesina, first President, Com. Dr. F.O Akinkuade, first General Secretary, Com. Dr. F.O. Faniran IPP, all past national officers of the union and other very important personalities who had made great contributions to the formation and sustenance of this union this far. Gentlemen of the press, ladies and gentlemen.
You would recall that our 6th triennial National Delegates’ conference (NDC) took place between 5th and 8th May, 2015 at the NLC Secretariat, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. This NDC brought to office national leaders that have stirred the ship of the union till this moment. Since accountability is inevitable, permit me to share with you some of the challenges, achievements and projects that the union had undertaken in the years under review.
It is no more news that there is discrimination, marginalization, oppression and suppression of other Healthcare professionals by the Medical Practitioners in the Health Sector. To worsen the situation, the government through the sitting President usually appoint both Ministers of Health (junior and senior Ministers) from the same professional enclave as against our continuous request that at least, one of the Ministers should be from the other health professional group. This played out in this dispensation and it brought about a lot of industrial unrest in the Health Sector. The discrimination and victimization was so vividly perpetrated by Prof. I.F. Adewole (former Minister of Health).
It is our belief that our letter to President Mohammadu Buhari (P.M.B) on this matter will receive a better response as he is constituting his ministerial cabinet. Let it be on record that NUAHP has strongly requested again that President Mohammadu Buhari should not make the mistake of appointing Minister of Health and Minister of State for Health solely from the Medical Practitioners profession. One of the Ministers should be from the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals or the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU). This will create robust policy formulations, better and healthy working relationship and less industrial unrest and seamless policy implementation in the Health Sector.
Disobedience of the Federal Ministry of Health to Court judgements: It is appalling and disheartening to note that various Court judgements in the union’s favour and that of her composite professional Associations from Courts of competent jurisdiction have been flagrantly disobeyed with impunity by the Honourable Minister of Health and the entire Federal Ministry of Health. I can readily recount over fifteen (15) Court judgements in favour of the Medical Laboratory Scientists that are yet to be implemented by the government. I therefore request our dear President, President Mohammadu Buhari and the authorities concerned to order the FMOH to implement these judgements without fail to forestall peace in the Health Sector. I therefore, call on the national leaders of AMLSN to team up with NUAHP leaders to chart the way forward on this matter.
APPOINTMENT OF CHIEF MERDICAL DIRECTORS/ MEDICAL DIRECTORS (CEO) OF TEACHING AND FEDERAL MEDICAL CENTRES: The decree 10 of 1985now known as Cap 463 LFN 2004, section 5 subsection 2 which reads “the chief medical director shall be a person who is medically qualified and registered as such for a period of not less than 12 years, has had considerable administrative experience in matters of health and hold post-graduate medical qualification obtained not less than 5 years prior to the appointment as Chief Medical Director”.
However, this law has been misinterpreted by the Federal Ministry of Health to mean that the post of the Chief Executive Officer of the hospital is exclusively meant for medical practitioners alone.
Our union has ever since challenged this in the Court of law. Presently, the case is at the Appeal court in Ibadan. This is a big challenge as most Chief Medical Directors and Medical Directors used this position to victimize and suppress the legitimate demands of our members. The union shall not relent until justice prevails.
Joint Health Sector Unions Struggles: The entire Health Sector has been thrown into avoidable unrest/strike actions due to the unwillingness of the Government to implement collectively bargained agreements reached with the unions since 2009 and other recent ones. Where it was implemented, it was done haphazardly. The present matter was taken to National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) Abuja where the Alternative Dispute Resolution arm of the NICN was asked to handle the matter. Finally, there were areas of agreement and some areas of disagreement. The Judge of the NICN has passed a consent judgement in the month of April 2019, over the areas of agreement. The certified true copy of the judgement had been collected by our lawyer for implementation.
Unpaid April and May, 2018 Salaries: You will recall that during the course of our industrial unrest, the Federal Ministry of Health issued the “no work no pay” circular which was illegal. However, after the strike, our April and May, 2018 salaries were withheld. The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) which our union is a strong stakeholder is still making serious efforts to see that these withheld salaries are released as the union met all legitimate conditions before embarking on the said strike action on the 16th of April, 2018. Hope is not lost on this as we are mounting up pressure on the Government to get it paid.
Adjusted CONHESS and other unresolved issues: The union has not relented on this, actions are on to make sure that Consolidated Health Salary Structure is also adjusted the way CONMESS was adjusted. Since the matter is out of ADR, fresh agitation over it would be reignited.
Subjugation of other healthcare professionals by Medical Practitioners: This move is spreading from Pathologists against Medical Laboratory Scientists, Ophthalmologists against Optometrists, Radiologists against Radiographers, Dentists against Dental Therapists/Technologists to mention a few. NUAHP is ready to collaborate with any of the Professional Associations in the struggle of emancipation and professional autonomy.
Short staffing: This has become a recurrent decimal in our various workplaces. Most members who retired and have left for greener pastures are yet to be replaced by our various Managements thereby overworking the few staff left. The union had made various presentations in this regards believing that the government would act now, at least to replace retired staff if employing fresh graduates is now a taboo in our nation.
In the midst of these challenges and hostile work environment with negative resources, from our check off dues, the following achievements were recorded between May, 2015 and June 2019. You would recall that our tenure was tagged; “Consolidation era with consolidation agenda”.
The union was able to establish additional unit branches bringing the total to 51 unit branches from 21 in 2015.
The union was also able to inaugurate additional State Council chapters, bringing the total to 12 from 6 in 2015.
Central deduction system was actualized, helping us to block fund lost to the barest minimal.
The union was able to rent a befitting 3 bedrooms flat in Ife as the National Secretariat headquarters for the meantime from a shop form of apartment inside the OAUTHC domain.
The union was able to acquire landed property for the building of National Secretariat at Abuja.
Call duty relativity allowance was secured for deserving members.
Yearly National Secretariat account auditing by external Auditor was also actualized.
There was employment of additional staff.
Acquisition of additional office property such as Intercoms, office cabinets, giant photocopying machine, laptops, desktop, stabilizer, UPS, colour printer, plastic chairs, furnishing of General Secretary’s office, stand fans to mention a few.
Acquisition of additional vehicles such as a Hummer bus and Siena space wagon for the union.
Upgrading of the union’s status in National TUC was as well achieved.
The union is embarking on some salient projects that will further enrich the union.
Acquisition of land at FCT to erect the National Secretariat, this is on-going. The building plans and land allocation are ready.
Formation of cooperative Society for the union. This is at its final stage, to mention a few.
In conclusion, in other to stem the tide of frequent industrial unrest in the Health Sector, I request the Government to revisit the recommendations of the Abdullahi Bello Gusau Committee on Harmonious work relationship of Health Professionals and workers in the Health Sector which was submitted in August, 2010 among other similar Committee’s recommendations.
I further request that the government should release a uniform guideline for the appointment of Chief Medical Directors and Chairman Medical Advisory Committee which shall no longer be skewed to favour a particular professional group but make it open to all qualified, competent individuals irrespective of their professional callings.
Likewise, the various hospitals Management Boards at the State and Federal levels should be reconstituted fairly in a way that no particular professional group should have a domineering representation over others.
I want to appreciate the Federal Government on the approval of N30, 000.00 as the minimum wage for workers in Nigeria. It is our request that the Government make sure that both the Federal and State workers enjoy it.
We call on both government and other unions in the Health Sector to cooperate and collaborate with our union as we work together to liberate all health workers from this perennial discrimination and marginalization meted out on us by a particular professional group in the Health Sector.
Other sister unions should desist from poaching our members as the jurisdictional scope ranking should be respected,
I want to thank the outgoing National Executives for their cooperation, understanding and tolerance throughout the life span of our administration. I also want to thank all the unit/State Council Executives and all our members nationwide for their doggedness in the face of stiff opposition. I say, Aluta continua! Victoria Acerta!
For the incoming Executives, I believe God will enable you do greater exploits than the outgoing executives. The theme of this programme is; “Building a strong Health team for effective service delivery”. I would implore you to listen attentively as our erudite resource person will do justice to the topic.
Finally, I want to appreciate the Chairman LOC, NOC and all members of his team for organizing this wonderful outing. God bless you all.
Thank you all, enjoy the programme and participate actively.
Dr. O.C. Ogbonna
National President NUAHP.