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Primary Health Workers’ Strike: People React

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Prince Ibinabo Lazarus – Primary Health Worker
We initially demanded the formation of Primary Health Care Management Board because of unfair treatment meted on Primary Health workers by local government councils in terms of salaries and other entitlements due us.
Now that the National Assembly is trying to make local governments autonomous, let’s hope the councils can manage the health workers and health facilities since all money payable to the board must come to an end.
So, our demands have been made known to the state government which includes the implementation of the consolidated salary structure; promotion of senior staff, implementation of last promotion exercise, among others.
And the workers have resolved that we are not going back to work until all our demands are met. Health workers in local governments should be treated like their counterparts in the state. A situation where there is disparities in the salaries of health workers of the same level who are working in the same facility, simply because one is employed by the state government and the other by the local government is unacceptable.
It is my sincere wish that the state government meets our demands so that we can go back to work so as to avoid the devastating effects the strike might have on the state. Already, there is collapse of the free medical system and increased morbidity rate. I want to advice mothers not to go for vaccination at the Primary Healthcare centres because the vaccines are no longer potent.
We are appealing to well meaning citizens of the state to persuade government to grant us our demands. We are merely asking for our rights. And as far as I am concerned, Primary Health Care Service deliveries have collapsed in the state. Clients and beneficiaries should seek for service deliveries in the secondary and tertiary sectors.

Mr  Robert Ibiso – Health worker.
Government knows the conditions we gave. If the conditions are met, we have no excuse whatsoever not to go back to work. We are willing to serve the populace at any time but government should give us our due right and treat us the way we deserve. I know too well that the incumbent governor of Rivers State may not do much about the on-going strike.
For now people are still benefiting from some of our health care service deliveries despite the industrial action. But you cannot compare what is going on there with the services we provide. We were trained for this job. We were trained to carry out some services in our health facilities in order to contain the spread of contagious diseases like cholera, measles and others. Today, go to Pott Johnson, Church Hill and other health centres and you will discover that immunisation and other health service deliveries are bequeathed to our clients even though we are on strike. You can imagine the caliber of quacks used for this.
Perhaps, this is the reason government is dilly-dallying over the implementation of our rightful requests. But this might lead to a big health problem in the state if not handled urgently.
Mrs Veronica – Nurse
The health workers are demanding their right on the grounds that they have not been promoted for the past eight years without a cogent reason. There has been no employment of new technical staff to replace those who have left the service by retirement, resignation or death. Workers are not being paid their due salaries.
Nevertheless, there seems to be confusion among the health workers currently. There are those who feel oppressed by the local government council, for not effecting their demands but at the same time prefer to remain with the local government areas after the Primary Health Care Management Board was mandated to deduct the money from source and take over the payment of their salaries and other demands.
Another set of the health workers is comfortable with the arrangement by which the Primary Health Care Board, takes over the payment of their wages and allowances, though they have other demands.
The beneficiaries of the primary health care service deliveries should braze up for harder days ahead because I don’t see this tussle ending soon. The poor masses are beginning to feel the impact of the strike because immunisation rate had dropped in the state. More people are dying.
I advise that the public should appeal to the government to implement the demands of the striking workers so that they can go back to work. Their services are very essential especially to those in the rural areas who cannot assess secondary and tertiary health institutions and those who cannot afford private hospitals.
However, I will also tell the public to seek for healthcare services from the private hospitals or abroad (for those that can afford it) because the level of our health care systems is now zero.

Grace Moses – Applicant
The industrial Action embarked upon by Primary Health Workers is unfortunate and detrimental. They are punishing the poor masses. The situation could be likened to where two elephants are fighting and the grasses are suffering.
Go to some health centers in the state and see how people are suffering. Antenatal and other bills have been increased unprecedentedly. Mothers are made to pay for things and services they ought not to pay for.  Indeed the strike is causing a great hardship for everyone in our state especially pregnant women, mothers and their babies.
My sister-in-law is pregnant. She has not been going for antenatal care because the workers are not there to attend to them. For some times now, she has been having some pains, but she keeps enduring the pain at home since she can’t not afford health care services in the private sector and that can force her to seek for health care services from traditional birth attendances though she detests it.
So, government should please do something about this strike before people begin to die unnecessarily.
Annonymous – Medical Doctor
The issue is that politicians do not value the services of health workers. Every administration that comes on board treats health workers in the local government as if they are no human beings. Look at my office, I am a medical doctor and a director in the civil service, can you compare this office with that of another director in another department  in this local government or even in the state? The neglect and marginalisation is too much and I don’t know why. Health workers are the last to receive their salaries and allowances. Meanwhile the council chairmen are busy embezzling this money. For more than eight years, there has not been employment  in the primary health sector yet people have retired, some have died, many have resigned. We are grossly understaff. Yet wehen the workers labour to serve the public, they will not be paid, nor will they be promoted along with other workers in the local government.
As a director you cannot sanction an erring staff under you because you have no control over her salaries and allowances. The number of health workers is over bloated by the councils who make  money from the large number of ghost workers.
That is why NULGE and a few health workers who are benefitting from the corrupt system are fighting against the establishment of the Primary Health Management Board. They are jittery that with the board paying workers’ salaries and allowances they will no longer make their millions. The board is there to strengthen the Primary Health Sector in State, cater for the welfare of the health workers and at the same time make sure that the workers sit up and carry out their duties as they should and some enemies of progress are kicking against it. The State government has built over a hundred health centres in different parts of the state. Tell me how can the local governments manage these health institutions? The state government in its wisdom, set up the Primary Health Management Board to take charge of these health centres to make sure that the health centres are alive and active even when Amaechi’s tenure elapses.
So, for me, government should not go back on the promise of transferring health workers salaries from the local government councils to the Primary Healthcare Management Board. It is in the best interest of the generality of the workers and the public.
I will also urge government to attend to other demands of the genuine striking workers vis-à-vis the payment  of CONHESS arrears from March 2011 to June 2014; payment of HAPPS arrears; payment of 38 months unified salary structure arrears for health workers in the 23 local government areas; implementation of the last senior staff promotion among others.
When this is done, the real health workers will go back to work and things will normalise.

Mr Micheal Nnadi- Student
For me I am not feeling the impact of the strike, maybe because I don’t patronize the primary health care services or any government hospital at all. I prefer private clinics, though they are expensive, they give you quality service.
However, I don’t buy this idea of workers down tooling every now and then. Our country is becoming a country of daily strike actions and I don’t think it is good for the image of the country. The health workers should think of other ways of ironing out their differences with the government instead of punishing the poor patients. They should stop being selfish and think of the interest of those who depend on their services.
On the other hand, those in authority should try and be more responsible and reasonable. They should take workers welfare as their priority. How much are these workers even asking for? Is it half of the amount our leaders spend on politics and other frivolous ventures. I am quite  sure that if our leaders do not steal public fund, there will be enough money for all sectors of the economy.
So government and the striking workers should settle their differences and stop making life more miserable for the poor.

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Opinion

The Enemy Within

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Political scientists would talk about an Iron Law of Oligarchy whose custodians and protectors are the barons of the wit cult. The wit cult members are patrons of the cult of weeds, whose protectors are usually drawn from the security circles. A former president of this country once said that “some desperate politicians and people in power are known to protect notorious outlaws often linked to violent crimes”. Curious readers can check The Tide newspaper of 26/7/2019, Page 2. The credo of the Law of Oligarchy is that “whoever has the most power makes the rule and takes the gold”. Gangsterist Law?
What is oligarchy? It is defined as government or control by a small group of people, using democracy as a camouflage. Do we have a cabal in Nigeria? Yes! Who controls that cabal? A Presidency! Who is Presidency? A camouflage! Who are the small groups of people controlling power in Nigeria? Ask General Jibril Musa Sarki (Born to Rule) and Badu Salisu Ahmadu who told Nigerians that there is a standing Fulani Strike Force ready to claim the lands which they inherited from the British.
What does it take to make the rule and take the gold? Power, in its raw form! How do you get power? Ruthless exploitation of weaknesses and loop-holes! Are there weaknesses and loop-holes in the Nigerian environment? Yes! They include ignorance, timidity, cowardice, myopia and the desire to attend to stomach infrastructure, via hustling and scrambling for the crumbs from the table of the champions. Hungry dogs! Kept poor!
Who are the champions of the Nigerian political economy? Someone provided an answer, saying: “the wealth buried in the bowels of Oloibiri and in other oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta region is being cornered by a few Nigerians and foreigners”. The culture of parasitism had been a long issue in human history, but its modernised version takes the form of national and international politics. At the international level, the culture of parasitism operates through big corporations and conglomerates, via monopolies.
Any intelligent Nigerian would figure out easily that there are spirited efforts from various nebulous quarters to divert attention from what is actually going on in the country. For example, international borders in Southern Nigeria are not only blocked but manned with strictness, while similar borders in the Northern parts are left open. The heightened state of insecurity in Southern Nigeria in recent times cannot be for nothing, but indicative of an effort to divert attention from some ulterior motives. What are the motives?
Rivers State is of a particular importance in the current political drama, because of its status as a major pillar in Nigeria’s political economy. What unsuspecting Nigerian masses must know is that a number of the people are paid agents in the service of some vested interests. Many of such paid agents are not usually aware of whose interests or what purposes that they serve with zeal and commitment. Sponsors of acts of brigandage and banditry are members of an organized cabal, in whose clutches Nigerians are now helpless.
Apart from political parties and their propaganda machines, power holders and power mongers do use security agencies as tools and hirelings in their services. Apart from fueling crisis and animosities where there are stakes for such purposes, security agencies, via security votes, are handy tools in the service of power mongers. We find such tools and errand boys as regular participants in phone-in radio programmes, whose utterances and opinions are usually coloured by ideological leanings and sympathies.
It is particularly pathetic that indigenes of Southern Nigeria can become so myopic and blind that they become willing stooges in the current political shenanigans. “Fall guys” in this on-going power game are not usually insignificant persons but highly-placed members of the political elites. A common strategy of roping in such Southern elite is to lure them into some financial sleaze and scandal, which in the end would allow them the option of joining the party in power. We have seen many of such strategies in the past few years, resulting in political decampment and joining the party in power.
The time has come to alert Southern Nigerians that many of them are being used and co-opted into serving some sectional interests and hidden agenda, to the detriment of such stooges and hirelings. This has been going on for quite a long time, aimed not only at advancing some agenda, but also winning sympathies, via patronage and sinecure. A hate speech law was also crafted for the purpose of intimidating those who discern the game plan.
During the General Sani Abacha regime discerning Nigerians saw how operatives of the security and intelligence agencies served the sinister agenda of a section of the country. Acts of brigandage and criminality purportedly committed by armed or unknown persons were placed at the door-steps of NADECO or groups hostile to military rule. Now even in a democratic regime “armed and unknown gunmen” are still engaged in their trade. Soon after military rule came the clamour for Sharia Law, followed by the menace of Boko Haram.
Even though a large number of Nigerians are ignorant and capable of being led by the nose like assess, there are a few discerning ones who can perceive the shape of things to come. Behind all the shenanigans lies the truth that a few Nigerians, with the collaboration of some foreigners, cornered the wealth of the nation, represented by mineral oil and gas. Despite the use of intimidation, divide-and-rule strategies and other cover-ups, the game is up and the disenfranchised groups are wiser now. Agitations will rise further.
Let it be added, as an aside, that Scotland-Yard trained private eyes rarely write or speak carelessly. In this case, those who take interest in this article should heed the message, rather than ask that supportive evidence be brought, in chapters and verses, for the message to be considered valid. An enemy within usually operates like a chameleon, whose antics include vengeful attacks when short of further camouflage. The game is up! We have taken too much for the owner to know!
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Checking High Bride Price

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Marriage is a sacrament which every couple is expected to obey as instituted by God. But today the reverse is the case, especially in African societies where most people violate this sacrament due to their selfish desires and sometimes, pressure from parents.
It is no longer news that in most African societies today, bride prices have gone so high that marriage ceremonies have become an economically viable venture. As such, most poor young men have remained unmarried  until they get so old. Yet, the rich young ones easily get wives to marry because they are buoyant enough to lavish money.
Although many leaders recognise this in Nigeria, especially in the southern part of the country, they are afraid to talk about it. This is mainly because they fear how the society would react. The fact is that whether high dowries are paid on brides or not, there is no marriage all over the world that would enjoy stability if Christ is not its pillar, and the anchor that those who make the contract rely on. Those who have accepted Jesus as their personal saviour also enjoy His spirit of love in their marriages. And there are a lot of testimonies to this effect. This is why most couples are able to stay till death do them part.
Talking about high bride prices in this society, the ability to haggle and bargain has an unhappy angle associated with the process itself. You can agree with me that in every marriage, there is some selfish human heart that comes into play. If not, how can a man pay well over N100,000 for a lady, and another pays as little as N200 and sometimes, no cash deposit to bring a wife under his roof?
However, because the game has become an expensive and dicey one, many young men have been frustrated and defeated, and most end up eloping with their heartthrobs as wives. But as long as the customs of the land remain, eloping with a lady boils down to  immorality, which may not be the direct sin of the man  in question.
In fact, numerous cases abound where men eloped  with their girlfriends, and began to live together as  husband and wife. They are, in most cases, blessed  with children, even in the midst of illegality. They ignore the parents of the woman or man, and go into their  own procreation process.
But the unfortunate thing is that sometimes the  problem associated with that strategy is that if the woman dies in the man’s house, the parents of the  deceased are likely to demand that the man marries the woman even in death, sometimes at very exorbitant prices. In fact, a lot of things may be lined up as  requirements for the marriage of the dead woman. In  some other cases, the children produced in that marriage are classified as bastards or children of the woman’s father until the man does the right thing, that is to pay her bride price.
I think as long as mankind lives on earth,  high bride prices never make husbands price their wives (like property) better. Instead, there are reported cases of men who have treated their wives as slaves because  of the huge sum of money spent as bride price. Methinks that if young men are able to prove to their supposed parents in-law that they can love and hold their daughters, this should be enough dowry than paying fabulous amounts of money that do not equate true love.
The high dowry on women has disadvantages on the bride too. Many women have confessed openly that high bride prices have compelled their real husbands out of the work contest, leaving unlovable wealthy men available in the market. The result is an unnecessary joining of  incompatible couples because money has become the  name of the game.
High dowries make women slaves as most of them  remain unhappy in their marriages. Perhaps, they just stay to satisfy the man who has spent so much on  them. The consequence of this is that a wide gap exists for infidelity, and a display of fake and smokescreen love, which is far from being genuine.
This is not to say that those with low income have not  married wives. No! On the contrary, some have actually found themselves wives, and they lived as happy couples  for decades. But we have also heard stories where men  go on to borrow huge amounts of money just to get  married. In a situation like this, such couples are forced  to go through terrible and agonising marriages.
In perspective, it has been imperative that high bride prices are no guarantees to long, stable and well-enjoyed   marriages. High bride prices only help to force men who are not rich into borrowing, thereby putting men with such financial crisis into slavery while the women are boxed into a corner, with little or no choice than to settle for men with the money. In the end, such women  look more like the men’s personal properties.
It is high time the state government or better still, local  government councils fixed equal amount to be paid as dowry for all women. Although this suggestion may sound primitive, I think it is workable and the right path to toe. This can be done by encouraging would-be husbands to go to their local governments to pay for their wives. This action should attract receipts, and such monies should later be handed over to parents of the  brides.
If all Nigerians go to the same markets, schools, workplaces, among others, then I do not see any reason why bride prices should vary. And until this is done,  women will ever suffer, and men without money will remain unmarried.
Etim writes from Port Harcourt.

By:  Sintrials Etim

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Opinion

No To Abolition Of NYSC

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A bill to alter the 1999 Constitution to abolish the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme has been initiated by a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Awaji-Inimbek Abiante (PDP, Rivers). The intent of this bill is to invalidate Section 315 (5a) of the 1999 Constitution and the National Youth Service Act.
The Youth Corps programme, which started on May 22, 1973, was established during the military regime of Gen Yakubu Gowon under Decree No. 24 of 1973 to reconcile and reintegrate Nigerians after the Civil War. It was also created to bridge ethnic and religious divisions across the country and promote the spirit of nationalism through understanding and appreciating others’ cultures and religions.
At the initial stage, it was compulsory for all graduates of tertiary institutions to be part of the service, but the age was later pegged at 30 years in 1984, while holders of the National Certificate in Education (NCE) were excluded perhaps to reduce the number of participants in the service to save costs.
Despite the goals of the NYSC, many Nigerians believe it is time for the scheme to be abandoned or reviewed, contending that it has lost its pertinence. Abiante’s suggestion to abolish the scheme undoubtedly strengthens this argument that the objectives of the NYSC should be reviewed or updated following the present realities of modern Nigeria.
Abiante, in his explanatory statement to the proposal, gave reasons for abandoning the NYSC. He noted the incessant killings of corpers and their frequent rejection by some public and private organisations as some of the justifications.
Furthermore, the lawmaker said public and private agencies are no longer recruiting qualified and skilled young Nigerians. Rather, they rely heavily on the availability of corps members who are not well remunerated and get discarded with impunity at the end of their service year, without any hope of being gainfully employed.
Available records show that in 2011, seven corpers were killed in the post-election violence that broke out in some parts of the country specifically after the presidential election. Regardless of these glaring problems, the question of whether NYSC has surpassed its usefulness remains controversial.
First and foremost, we must address the raison d’être of the Youth Corps programme, which aims to promote national unity and integration, among other things. Forty eight years after the scheme was established, can we say that this key objective has been achieved? Have we become more integrated than before? Certainly not. 
Another significant objective of the NYSC is to make the members self-reliant. But since employment is hardly available in Nigeria because of the current economic challenges, this goal is scarcely achievable. The majority of industries have closed and the remaining ones are operating at less than 50% capacity.
Though the scheme has in one way or the other benefited Nigerian youths such as exposing them to diverse groups, persons and cultures, promoting inter-ethnic marriages and discipline, it is inundated  with numerous problems that if nothing is done urgently and differently would contribute less to the unity of the nation, especially in these troubled times.
As could possibly be seen by many Nigerians, insecurity appears to threaten the scheme in a way that affects its sustainability. In the light of this, we question the appropriateness of posting corps members to places that are subject to serious security threats. Maybe, the government can examine this issue and allow everyone to serve in their comfort zone.
Any system that creates a disparity between the rich and the poor cannot accomplish its purpose. Even before the security problems, corps members were already influencing where they wished to be posted, especially children and wards of the elites. That alone has thwarted the objective the NYSC was established to achieve. The system itself is very skewed and grafted. Huge amounts of money are sometimes offered to influence postings.
Notwithstanding these shortcomings, we reject the view that the NYSC should be eliminated or scrapped. Rather, there may be a type of restructuring to make it more efficient. New ideas need to be injected into the scheme while the government should review its goals and focus training on self-defence, vocational skills and entrepreneurship. 
Several Nigerians are highly tribalistic and believe in ethnic supremacy, which clearly goes against the objectives of the project and has made it almost worthless today. Hence, we believe that NYSC should become zonal and each geo-political zone should be allowed to accommodate its corps members, sharing them in their areas as they deem best. This would solve a lot of problems since many Nigerians are no longer enthusiastic about serving in specific parts of the country.

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