Contrary to a speculation that the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) might have called off its strike, the union has expanded the industrial action to full scale and nationwide.
There were hopes at the weekend that health workers would heed public outcry to call off the strike, but the union said government was not showing full commitment in addressing the demands put forward by the union.
This came as stakeholders in the health sector deployed the action of JOHESU, describing the decision to declare a nationwide strike as selfish and egocentric.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, JOHESU President, Ayuba Waba, said: “It could be recalled that the Joint Health Sector Unions declared an industrial action on November 12 as a matter of last resort. This was due to government’s refusal to fully implement agreements freely entered into by the federal government with JOHESU and refusal to implement Judgment of the NICN delivered on July 22, 2013.
“We have had two meetings without meaningful progress; but most sadly is the lack of commitment and seriousness on the part of Federal Ministry of Health, during both and also in between meetings.”
He explained: “At the last meeting between the Federal Government and JOHESU on November 19, government requested for 24days to look into all our demands and consequently fixed another meeting for December 15. Disappointingly at the meeting of Monday, December 15, key officials of Federal Ministry of Health notably the Minister, Permanent Secretary, and Directors were conspicuously absent thereby stalling the meeting.
“We are disturbed, that instead of government showing concern and demonstrating commitment towards bringing an end to the plight of Nigerians and health workers by addressing the issues and restoring public health services, it resorted to acts of intimidation culminating in the directive contained in Circular Ref.DHS/PLC/01/P/130 dated December 9.
“In the light of the foregoing which is objectively verifiable, JOHESU has fulfilled all righteousness and our strike action is both legal and legitimate. The invocation of “no work, no pay” by the federal government is totally flawed and holds no water, whatsoever.”
To that effect, the union directed all its members nationwide to suspend all forms of skeletal and concessional services in all healthcare facilities and ensure total compliance with the strike action.
“As a matter of necessity branch meetings should hold regularly for the enforcement of members’ rights and liberties and to resist any form of brutalisation, intimidation and oppression, through all legitimate means.
“Members should gird their loins for a long drawn battle if need be, as we will not turn back until victory is achieved,” he further directed.
Waba, therefore called on all well-meaning Nigerians to call on the federal government to live up to its constitutional obligation of respect for the rule of law by implementing the collective agreements reached since 2009 till date.
Waba bemoaned the continued government non-committal posturing, stating that, “this is a struggle foisted on us and in as much as we find it painful to prosecute with our sincere concern for common Nigerians, we are left with no choice but to take this path of struggle as we call on the federal government to tow the path of honour and justice.”
But a cross section of experts in the health sector who spoke with THISDAY on condition of anonymity, deplored the decision of JOHESU to embark on a full blown nationwide strike.
Meanwhile, speaking against the backdrop of incessant cases of strike in the health sector, an expert in family health, Prof. Oladipo Ladapo, said all categories of health workers are “really not supposed to go on strike, but sometimes, they are compelled to do so if government failed to address problems” in the sector.
Ladapo urged government to implement the pledges and agreements reached with health workers and should not allow anyone to sabotage such pledges made.