The Joint Health Workers Union, which is the umbrella body for health unions in Nigeria, says Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, abused his power by employing a campaign of calumny against health workers in order to win public support.
Health workers are on strike nationwide as they put pressure on the Federal Government to accede to their demands. In his reaction to the minister’s claim during a press conference in Abuja, JOHESU secretary, Moshood Akinade, told newsmen at the union’s secretariat in Ibadan, Oyo State, that Chukwu did not tell the truth about the actual position of things between the union and the ministry, adding that there were available documents to back the union’s claim. Akinade pointed out that the issue of skipping of CONHESS 10 grade, which was one of the major issues that led to the strike, was not properly addressed by the minister and that while the ministry had only sought order of appeal against JOHESU victory at the National Industrial Court, the minister erred by telling the world that the ministry had appealed the NIC ruling already.
Akinade said, “The NIC judgment reads: That skipping of CONHESS 10 is legal and the purported circular by the ministry of health and Head of Service of the Federation stopping it is illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.
“The implication of the above position of the court is that members would continue to enjoy skipping of CONHESS 10. Those earlier appointed as consultants would also continue to enjoy the status with all the benefits and the withdrawal of their letters of appointment is irregular, null and void. The ruling also implies that the issue of shift duty, administrative non-clinical and call duty allowances should remain as they are but negotiation should commence towards an agreement on upward review of the allowances.
“I wonder why the health minister will say that skipping of CONHESS 10 is not a policy of the government. Why did the two former Heads of Service, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye and Prof. Oladapo Afolabi issue a circular towards its effect if it was illegal?”
The JOHESU secretary also said that the minister did not respect a constituted legal institution as the NIC, describing his inability to honour a peace meeting he instituted as dictatorial and autocratic.
“We are not bent on making the Nigeria masses to suffer unjustly by going on strike, but there is limit to everything we can take, if the health minister does honour the court order or resign, we will not have any choice, because the health sector is in perpetual subjugation and we do not think Prof. Chukwu is qualified and capable to handle the affairs of this ministry.”