Chris Steven, Abuja
Members of Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Thursday besieged the Federal Ministry of Health headquarters at the Federal Secretariat complex Abuja demanding the resignation of Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire.
Both NLC and TUC Presidents, Comrades Ayuba Wabba and Bobboi Bala Kaigama who led the picketing exercise, hinged their protest on alleged injustice meted out on some staff of the Federal Medical Centre,Owerri who allegedly leaked out information of corrupt practices against the Chief Medical Director of the Center, Dr.Angela Uwakwem.
They accused the Minister of compromise in the corruption charges brought against the Chief Medical Director.
According to the labour centres,Uwakwem’s continuous stay as CMD of the Center was in contravention of the Federal Government’s anti-corruption policy,especially when she had been indicted by investigations carried out by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC).
Comrade Wabba said the organized Labour was pained with the fact that the Minister of State for Health seems to be shielding the CMD irrespective of the Federal Government’s anti corruption policy to protect whistle blowers.
Dr. Ehanire was alleged to have influenced the reinstatement of Uwakwem despite the case still receiving attention in court in Imo state.
Some of the protesters carried placards with inscriptions like,”Dr Ehanire whose interest are you serving,the people of Nigeria or your pay masters,”Angela Uwakwem must remain suspended until cleared by court,”all we ask for is the enforcement of rule 030411 of the public service rule,”re-instatement or cover up of her dirty deals! among others.
The protesters vowed to go after the Minister in the office, his official residence and in his country home in Edo State to force him to do the right thing about the corruption case leveled against Uwakwem.
According to the NLC President, the Minister of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Adamu Bello, had done everything about the issue but that Ehanire deliberately sat on the file.
“Over 200 workers who sympathized with the cause of their colleagues have been denied salaries. Their names have been removed by Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System from the payroll of Federal Medical Centre, Owerri. Is this fairness, is this how to fight corruption. We must continue to stand by our colleagues.
The declaration of the Federal Executive Council that whistle blowers should be rewarded must be enforced. The Minister of State for Health was there when that decision was taken. So we will force him and tel him to confirm with that decision.
The document has made it very clear they are the same workers who reported the case and investigation have gone on and Dr Uwakem has been charged officially to court.
“So we will occupy this office until the Federal Government moves in and intervene in the issue and also remove the CMD, Owerri, ‘’he said.
Comrade Wabba also said a similar case happened at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, where some staff who revealed what was going on underground were equally facing vindictive actions.
“At University of Agriculture, Abeokuta,they raised a fundamental issue, the Vice Chancellor have been charged to court, yet those who were the whistle blowers have also been exited out of their employment.
How can we as a country, continue like this, we must continue to stand by our colleagues and we must not be deterred in reporting corrupt cases,”he said.
Josiah Bio-belemoye, President, Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), who spoke at the protest,said it was initially rumoured that President Muhammadu Buhari ordered that the CMD be allowed to continue with her appointment. But it has since been found to be untrue.
“We found out that Mr President was not even aware of the whole issue concerning Dr Uwakem.
We plead with Mr President that even if he had said such a thing, it could be that he was not given the proper brief of the situation of the FMC, Owerri.
If we all want the Federal Ministry of Health to succeed in the fight against corrupt in the Public Service, the rules must be obeyed, “he said.