The recently enacted Primary Health Care Board Law which compels local government councils in Rivers State to contribute 10 per cent of their total revenue monthly to the board is raising some dust at the third-tier of government. The umbrella association of the council workers is crying wolf over two sections of the law, which it considers offensive. The National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) thus called for amendment to the sections, if the local government system is to be sanitised.
NULGE did not stop there but proceeded to take its protest of the law to the state government. As it stands today, the law has pitched the Board it sets up against the grassroots workers’ union, and except something is done urgently to assuage the situation, the third-tier system may be the worst for it.
Aside NULGE, the councils’ authorities themselves view the new law as an affront on them and are reluctant to abide by its provisions, especially the aspect that mandates them to contribute 10 per cent of their total revenue to the Board. The situation at the councils may snow ball into a major crisis between local government chairman and the Board on one hand, and NULGE and the Board on the other, except the law is re-visited and the offending sections amended.
At the Port Harcourt City Local Government, Obio/Akpor and Emohua councils for instance, the issue has been at the front burner of discourse among stakeholders who view the ‘offending’ sections as ‘Obnoxious and stringent so should be expunged from the law. Same is the feeling at the NULGE Consulate (secretariat) in Port Harcourt.
For NULGE, it is a slight on the union that the law did not also include the union on the Board as a member but, rather prefers medical and health workers union to be o n the Board. And NULGE is not prepared to take this, hence it is leading the third-tier of government on the protest to have these sections amended.
How far NULGE can go in achieving this feat remains to be seen but the leadership of the union is optimistic and sees light at the end of the tunnel. The Weekend Tide accosted NULGE state president, Sir Barr. Franklin Ajinwo and he said just this.
Sir. Barr. Ajinwo said he could not understand why 10 per cent of the total allocations of councils in the state which amounts to over N200 million monthly, using the new salary scale should be paid to the Board as overhead when the councils were still required to pay primary healthcare to workers.
He fumed saying that “by the provisions of that law, local government councils in this state are expected to contribute 10 per cent of their total allocation to that board and the deduction is to be made at source,” adding despitefully, “that does not even stop it, after contributing the 10 per cent, the local government councils will also go ahead and pay the Primary Healthcare workers (whereas) that 10 per cent ordinarily is enough to pay their salaries and remain, but they said, that’s just overhead cost!”
The NULGE boss told The Weekend Tide that as a union, they find this inconceivable and therefore unacceptable.
His words, “As a union, we saw that and felt that it was not in the best interest of the union or the system because by the time you make that deductions, cumulatively, using the May, 2011 allocation (formula) as a case study, 10 per cent will give you almost 200 and something (naira) to be used as overhead for just one board!
Barr. Ajinwo said the fact that the over N200 million will not be used for salaries makes the law even more worrisome, adding that they have protested to the government and expressed the hope that the state governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi “being somebody who believes in the right things being done, in the rule of Law” will ensure that these offending sections of the law will “certainly be amended”.
He told The Weekend Tide that “another aspect of the law we did not like is that in that primary healthcare board, we have medical and health workers union being represented in the board while NULGE where the money is going to be generated from (is not on the Board).”
“Ordinarily, every staff of local government is a member of NULGE. NULGE means National Union of Local Government Employees so the fact that you’re an employee of local government makes you a member of NULGE, you can belong to your professional body, that does not remove you from NULGE. As a lawyer, I pay my subscription to NBA, Engineer can pay to NSE, all that. If you are a doctor employed by local government, you’re a staff of local government so a member of NULGE, but that does not mean you should not pay your subscription to NMA, so every staff of local government is a member of NULGE, therefore, if you’re taking any decision that affects them, naturally, NULGE should be part of it”, he explained.
“But we discovered that in that law, instead of making NULGE to be represented on the Board, they rather went and maked Medical and Health Workers Union to be represented,” he said and explained that medical and health workers union is the union that brings together health workers in the hospital, the UPTH, secondary and tertiary sectors. Ajinwo said,“If you say they are professionals want them to pay their professional and fees to you, it’s different from union dues because everything we discuss here, we do so as a union; as members of NULGE.
We are people who have common problem. So we come together, that’s the essence of union; we come together to see how we can solve our common problems”.
Barr Ajinwo insisted that NULGE should be represented on the board, the Board should be re-constituted and that section of the Law should be amended to include NULGE as a member, adding, if they say Medical and health Workers should be members, as a matter of fact, we don’t even see the need for them, NULGE is the appropriate union to be there.
But if medical and health workers union should be there, well!.
Barr Ajinwo further told The Weekend Tide that they’re relating with the local Lgovernment chairmen that were newly elected, with a view to seeing that they walk as a team for the interest of the 3rd tier system.