By Patrick Ugeh in Abuja
More than a month after the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) lambasted them, and the Health Ministry described their protest as politically-motivated, the Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations and the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) have denied the charge.
JOHESU comprises National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Medical & Health Workers Union of Nigeria (M&HWUM), Senior Staff Association of universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes & Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), Nigeria Union of Pharmacists, Medical Technologist and Professions Allied to Medicine (NUPMTPAM), Non–Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU).
“What political motivation could we have had? We are neither politicians nor political jobbers looking for patronage and appointment. There is no partisan leaning or affiliation whatsoever in our coalition. We are healthcare professionals and workers interested in ensuring that quality health service is restored in Nigeria and determined to dissociate ourselves from the mismanagement of the health sector by Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu and his NMA constituency, which has brought the decline in the sector to an all-time low in 2011 and 2012,” they said in a statement in Abuja.
According to the statement issued by Dr. Ayuba Wabba and Yussuf Badmus, Chairman and Secretary respectively, the legitimate expression of their democratic right to protest could not amount to “blackmail” or “desperation”.
They denied that the protest was to undermine the strong resolve of the Minister of Health to transform Nigeria’s healthcare sector through the institutionalization of professionalism and international best practice.
They said the NMA had argued barely two months ago that the country’s health indices had hardly been this bad and that it was confirmed by the recently released
World Health Organisation (WHO) World Health Statistics 2012, which places Nigeria at the bottom position of all the 194 countries in the report.
“While it is debatable that there are systemic problems which the sector faces and has faced for decades, there has never been such a decline in the health service of Nigeria as we have had under the ministerial watch and misrule of Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, for decades.
“It is either a display of ignorance by the Minister or a calculated mischief to evade the issues and chase shadow to refer to the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) as “an unregistered umbrella group.”
“For the records, we are listed in the Labour act which also recognizes the practice of registered trade unions to function together in matters of common interest. Besides, the National Policy on Health, 2004 duly recognises our group as major stakeholders and above all, the National Industrial Court recognises us as a legal entity.
“The Minister on the other hand prefers to negotiate with the NMA and the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) which are neither registered under the Labour act nor recognised as unions. Double standards at its worst display in the Federal Ministry of Health,” the workers said.