By Hassan Zaggi
Following the court order it received at 5:39pm on Friday, the leadership of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) has summoned an emergency consultative meeting with all stakeholders from all states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to fashion a way forward.
The meeting which started with an executive session on Sunday evening through Monday morning was aimed at will determining the next step the group will take in its on-going six weeks old strike that has paralysed the country’s health sector.
At an earlier media briefing, weekend, the President of the Association of Healthcare Practitioners, Goodwill Okara, said: “An Order of Interim Injunction compelling the JOHESU to immediately resume duties was just served on JOHESU at 5.39pm Friday. We have the greatest respect and regard for the Judiciary of our country Nigeria. It has always proved to be the bulwark of our democracy, the last hope of the common man and the flagship of the vanguard for law and order in human society.
“Following the calculated attempt to demonise JOHESU through sustained misinformation and falsehood by the Federal Ministry of Health and the Kingdom Human Rights Foundation International, an NGO, that is neither our employer nor a party to the agreement JOHESU signed with Government, JOHESU had before the receipt of this Court Order filed Court Processes in the National Industrial Court and the court of Appeal on May 21, 2018, challenging the locus standi of the NGO and the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suite. The NGO has constituted itself into a meddlesome interloper.”
While commending the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, for his intervention, Okara called on the federal government to honour and implement the agreement it freely entered into with JOHESU on the September 30, 2017, for a permanent resolution of the impasse, to restore normalcy and end the suffering of innocent Nigerians.
However, at the end of the session, the JOHESU president, Josiah Biobelemoye and the other national officials of the group addressed the states and zonal executives who gathered at the Medical and Health Workers House, Area 1, Abuja.
The AUTHORITY observed that most of the states and zonal executives in their hundreds were wearing long and angry faces. This, according to keen observers, is an indication that the health workers have been pushed to the wall and are ready to fight to the end until their demands are met.
Speaking while addressing the officials, the JOHESU President said: “These people that have sat down with unregistered trade unions to give them illegal items, just because we have asked for our own right, they are contemplating, threatening us that they will proscribe us. Comrades, now as they said you should ask us to suspend the strike, is that your word?” The hundreds of states and zonal officials answered a thunderous no.
The JOHESU President further put the issue to a vote voice in order to take unified decision, the group voted in favour of the strike to continue.
“Those who say we should suspend the strike because of court order, intimidation, arrest or jail or whatever should say yes,” the JOHESU President further asked, the whole place was as if it was a grave yard. No one said anything.
The general consensus at the end of the interaction between the states and zonal officials and the national executives was that there was no going back on the strike despite the court order which the JOHESU has already filled an appeal.
There was also a general consensus that no matter the threat of proscription, no work no pay policy and any other threat for that matter will ever make the health workers to resume their work unless their demands are met.
Speaking, representative of the National Association of Nurses and Midwives said: “We did not commend this strike until we demanded from the general assembly, the strike has commence, we are on it, we gave government 56 days of opportunity, yet nothing happens rather than a black market court order which we have appealed against. I Nurse Haruna hereby move the motion that this strike should continue come sun, come rain until we receive our alert.”
On his part, Comrade Chinedu of the Medical and Health Workers Union, said: “Because labour has a lot to contribute to shape this country for good, I stand to say they must embrace the change. If they have decided to jail us unjustly and we are just people, the right place for us is the prison. I therefore insist that the strike must continue until victory is sure.”
On her part, Comrade Fatima insisted that “We are ready to continue with this strike until we receive our alerts. The strike must continue nationwide.”
A cross section of officials who came from different states for the meeting interviewed by The AUTHORITY insisted that the federal government and the Federal Ministry of Health have taken them for granted for a long time. They noted that they are ready to surrender the last drop of their blood to ensure that their demands are met.
“As you can see us, we are very angry with the federal government. Our members across the country are not happy and we are ready for any action that the federal government may want to take against us, but we are not going back to work until our demands are met.
“Our patience has been misinterpreted for weakness over the years, but this time around, we are not going to take it,” a nurse who gave his name as Abdullahi vowed.
At the end of the interaction, the national executives of the JOHESU led by the President, Josiah Biobelemoye left immediately for a meeting with the Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
It would be recalled that on the earlier hours of Sunday, the Senate President on his face book page wrote: “Following my meeting last Friday with the Ministers of Labour and Health, I will be having a follow up meeting tomorrow with the leadership of JOHESU, the second in under a week.
“If the reports are true that FG has improved on its offer to JOHESU, it would be a step forward if the health workers could also stretch out a hand of fellowship-in good faith to meet the government halfway with a view to accepting the offer.
“We need to have a win-win-win situation for the union, the government and the Nigeria people, who have been greatly affected by the ongoing health workers strike.”