The rift between the Medical Director of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, Dr. Jojo Onwukwe and the workers has worsened as the Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU, has declared a total strike.
This followed alleged refusal of Onwukwe to accede to the request of the workers despite the requisite notice given to him.
The angry workers said they would continue with the strike until Onwukwe was removed as the Managing Director by the Health Minister.
It was gathered that few days to the visit of Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of Health for state, to the hospital last year, Onwukwe had called a meeting with some of the aggrieved workers, where he promised to address all the burning issues.
According to an informed source, the workers took him by his words, but no sooner had the minister left the hospital, than he reneged on all the agreements.
For over several years now, Onwukwe’s management of the hospital has been put to question following series of squabbles with all the sections of workers in the federal government-owned hospital.
Apart from his refusal to enlist workers in the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System, IPPIS, which the JOHESU said was an avenue for him to retain ghost workers in the payroll; they said Onwukwe had become notorious for victimizing any worker that raised his voice over his activities.
The recent of such cases was that of the Principal and the Vice Principal of the School of Post Basic Psychiatric Nursing, in the hospital, who he purportedly suspended over allegations of not issuing students with licenses, a move already declared null and void by the Federal Ministry of Health.
The said suspension, which the ministry said did not follow extant civil service rules, was seen as a plot to divert attention from several weighty issues bedeviling the management.
The duo are not alone, as the Head of Clinical Services, Dr. Bakare faced similar questionable suspension.
Investigations showed that the gale of suspensions, which have now turned the hospital apart, is not unconnected with the criminal trial of the MD’s personal secretary, Mrs. Stella Achalla.
Achalla is standing trial before an Enugu State High Court over alleged job scam running into millions of naira.
Sources hinted that although over 60 victims of the said job scam reported the matter to the police, which led to Achalla’s arrest and the on-going trial, the MD feels that the matter was being instigated by some of the hospital workers.
“What is happening at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Enugu is so pathetic; the MD has made himself such a god that nobody is being allowed to express his views”.
“There is now fear and anxiety everywhere, especially since the trial of his personal secretary began”.
“But the truth is that this is a criminal matter, reported to the police by the victims and not any staff in the hospital. Unfortunately, he has been using it to victimize everybody. This is really so bad”.
“I think he should allow the judicial process to run its course and not antagonize members of staff, who were not in any way party to the case”.
“The worst is that Mrs. Achara has not been queried nor suspended despite a ministerial panel’s recommendation to that effect,” the source said.
It could be re-called that Achalla was earlier arraigned over similar matter at the Enugu Magistrate Court, following which she was remanded at the Enugu Prisons.
Meanwhile, worried by these recent developments, coupled with the management’s failure to address issues of their welfare, the workers have declared an indefinite strike, which commenced from tomorrow, February, 7, 2018.
JOHESU had earlier issued a 21-day ultimatum to the management of the hospital over a litany of issues.
JOHESU’s ultimatum borders on withheld salaries and arrears from February 2017 till date; withheld promotion arrears, withheld teaching allowance and enrollment of the hospital into the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System, IPPIS.
The ultimatum was signed by Comrades Ozurumba Anthony, Onu Bank-Anthony, Sims Nwawgu, Ugwu Eric. A. Eze Mathew and Oduru Friday on behalf of the JOHESU affiliate bodies.
One week to the expiration of the JOHESU ultimatum, another workers’ union, had also in a letter dated January 19, addressed to the health minister, vowed to shut down the hospital if nothing was done to correct anomalies allegedly being perpetuated by Onwukwe.
In the letter by the University Graduates of Nursing Science Association, UGONSA, dated January 19, signed by its President, Chief S.E.O Egwuenu and the Secretary, Nurse Goodluck Nshi, the group alleged that there was escalating rascality, highhandedness, corruption and abuse of civil service rules by the Medical Director.
According to the group, “the current situation in the hospital if not checked will result in a breach of peace and a breakdown of law and order.”
They said peace would not return to the hospital without the immediate implementation of the report of a panel earlier sent to the hospital by the minister.
“The immediate implementation of the report of the panel will go a long way in restoring peace and harmony in the troubled hospital. We, therefore, call for immediate implementation of that report without further delay.
“We are outraged that the Medical Director has boasted that he has an insider in the ministry who he settles with money and that is why the report has not been and will never be implemented. This appears to be the reason he gets away with the embezzlement, corruption, violation of civil service rules and all other impunities in the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu.”
The workers, among other things, accused Onwukwe of grounding activities at the School of Post Basic Psychiatric Nursing, of the hospital, simply because of his personal interest, stressing that owing to his actions, the school had already lost its accreditation.
Among other alleged vindictive actions against the school, they further claimed that “he has refused to pay accreditation fee to the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, despite demand letters from the council in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Finally, the council has withdrawn accreditation to the school.
“We demand that Dr. Jojo Onwukwe be held accountable for the closing of the only school of Psychiatric Nursing in the South-East, Nigeria as a result of his vindictiveness.”
Onwukwe was also accused of refusal to pay electricity bills, thereby throwing the entire nursing of school into darkness for over one year, wrongful engagement of his brother, illegal locum staff, severing of headship from seniority, manipulation of posts, refusal to enroll in IPPS, among others.
According to them, “Onwukwe has refused to enrol the hospital into IPPIS when all other hospital in Nigeria have entered IPPIS because he had ghost workers, retired staff, dead, staff, and relatives receiving money directly from the ministry and he is over 60 years and his age cannot fit into the IPPIS paying platform.
“We demand that Dr. Onwukwe be instructed to enter IPPIS or henceforth no money should be released to him for payment of salary until he enrolls.”
Also in the letter, the workers alleged that Onwukwe had perfected plans to install his brother as successor upon his retirement early next year.
“In a bid to further cement the plot to make Dr. Acho, his brother, the most senior consultant, which he is not, and reposition him to succeed him as the medical director, Dr. Jojo Onwukwe interdicted Dr. Bakari (the most senior consultant) on the flimsy excuse of abandoning his official duty without permission, despite the fact that Dr. Bakari took permission both orally and written before leaving for an academic conference. Dr. Onwukwe did not see this permission letter because he does not come to work regularly and does not reside in Enugu”, they further alleged.
“We are giving our final two-week ultimatum in line with labour laws for curbing of the aforementioned escalating rascality, corruption and high-handedness of the MD and to protect our members who are now endangered species in the hospital.”
With the ultimatum now expired, the workers have announced that work at the hospital would be brought to a standstill with effect from tomorrow.
They said the industrial action, which would be total, would remain until Onwukwe was removed and a successor appointed from outside the hospital.