By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and the Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA), have threatened to commence a nationwide strike if the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) Repeal and Re-Enactment Bill, 2020 was not stepped down.
The unions decried the unfair treatment, injustice, lack of fair hearing and bias meted at them by the sponsor of the Bill, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, at the public hearing of five health Bills at the National Assembly.
President of JOHESU, Mr. Biobelemoye Josiah, who addressed reporters on behalf of other unions, faulted the moral grounds for Oloriegbe, who is a medical doctor to preside over a Bill he sponsored.
He said rather than the senator to follow the list of presenters, he (Oloriegbe) had handpicked those to present their papers and displayed a high level of bias against other health professionals.
While demanding an “unreserved apology” from the lawmaker, the unions maintained that all litigations on the existing Act must first be decided and resolved before its repeal and enactment.
He said: “JOHESU condemns in its entirety the harassment and intimidation of health workers and professionals during the above public hearing by Senator Ibrahim Y. Oloriegbe; the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health. The action is not only unfortunate but undemocratic, discriminatory, and unparliamentary.
“It is a violation of our members’ rights to freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. JOHESU demands an unreserved apology on this unfortunate incidence from Senator Oloriegbe or faces the wrath of JOHESU members through all possible means of legitimate means.
“JOHESU’s position is premised on the following: That the purpose of the public hearing was defeated because other critical stakeholders who submitted memoranda ahead of time were not allowed to make presentations even though sufficient time was given to medical practitioners and affiliated bodies. Furthermore, he totally disregarded the arranged list of presenters during the public hearing and hand-picked presenters instead, while barring his perceived antagonists.
“That Senator Oloriegbe as a sponsor of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCAN) bill displayed high level of bias against other health professionals during the public hearing.
“That Senator Oloriegbe as a medical practitioner and interested party in the bill is not eligible to preside over a public hearing of that nature on moral ground.
“That Senator Oloriegbe has not provided level playing ground to other health professionals; he had always given undue advantage Medical Practitioners at any Senate Committee legislative forum that has to do with the health sector.
“That the action of Senator Oloriegbe is against the fundamental rights as contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and the International Labour Convention on harassment and intimidation 2019.
“That the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill, 2020 is against Rule 7 Section 1(5) of the House of Representatives and Order 41 of the Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria; because the existing MDCAN Act is subject of litigations presently before courts of competent jurisdiction in the country.
“The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) hereby apart from apology on this unfortunate incidence demand that the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill, 2020 under consideration should be stepped down until all litigations on the existing Act are decided and resolved.
“JOHESU and AHPA warn that if these burning issues and other demands of health workers are not resolved as soon as possible, we can no longer guarantee industrial peace in the health sector nationwide.”