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Health Workers Begin Nationwide Strike, Today

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Health workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Health Care Professionals (JOHESU) have directed their members to withdraw their services from September 13, by 11.59 am, due to Federal Government inability to meet their demands.
The strike followed the expiration of the 15-day ultimatum by JOHESU to the Federal Government to meet its demands or it would down tools.
The demands of the aggrieved workers include; the review of the defective implementation of Covvid-19 Special Inducement and Hazard Allowance; the payment of all withheld salaries of JOHESU members, including the withheld April and May, 2018 salaries; and the adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) as was done with Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) since 2014.
Others listed in the letter to the Federal Ministry of Health with the reference number HQ/JOHESU/ADM/FMoH/VOL.II/55 are the implementation of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (ADR) Consent judgment and other court judgments as well as the call to address the structural and infrastructural decay in the health sector.
Already, the union has written to the Federal Government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, in fulfilment of Trade Dispute Act.
It would be recalled that the leadership of JOHESU had met with Ngige, who is the Conciliator General for the country, last Thursday, over the threat to embark on strike if the government failed to address their grievances.
But after its expanded National Executive Council (NEC), meeting, last Saturday, the union said that the meeting with government did not address their demands.
The letter to the minister read: “You would recall that at the end of the meeting held in your office on Thursday, 10th September, 2020, JOHESU demanded that the outcome of the meeting between JOHESU and the Federal Government be reported back to our expanded NEC meeting and give feedback to the Federal Government within 48 hours.
“In the light of the above, the meeting of our expanded NEC was held today, Saturday, 12th September, 2020.
“At the end of the meeting, which was held both physically and virtually, it was unanimously agreed that since nothing concrete was achieved at the said meeting with the Federal Government, that the strike notice is still germane and alive.
“Therefore, the 15-day ultimatum still subsists and with effect from midnight of Sunday, 13th September, 2020, our members shall withdraw their services due to Federal Government inability to meet their demands.”
The letter was signed by the President of Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Comrade Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, the union’s Secretary-General, Dr. Silas Adamu; President, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), A. A. Adenij; and the General Secretary, A. A. Shettima.
Others were, President, Senior Staff Association of Universities Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), Dr. A.B. Akintola; and the General Secretary, Dr. Ezekiel Popoola; President, Nigerian Union of Allied, Health Professionals (NUAHP), Dr. O. Ogbonna; the General Secretary, Martin Egbanubi; National President, Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), Hassan Makolo; and General Secretary (NASU), Comrade Peters Adeyemi.
The Minister for Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, after briefing President Muhammadu Buhari, last Friday, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, had expressed optimism that JOHESU would suspend the planned strike.
Briefing State House correspondents, the minister said, “We engaged the Joint Health Sector Unions, they served notice of withdrawal of services on their employer, the Federal Ministry of Health. This Joint Sector union comprises of Nurses and Midwives Association, Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria, Radiotherapists Union and Medical and Health Workers Union, everybody in the health sector.
“So, there were five points demand from the ultimatum and we discussed every point there… and gave some assignments. They and NARD had complained that special hazard being paid, that there were some areas of hiccups and roughages, that some of their members were omitted, doctors and health workers and that some didn’t get the right percentage.
“If you remember, we did an MoU and a Memorandum of Action too by which we are giving 50 per cent of their pay as special Covid-19 Allowance for three months of April, May, June.
“They said some of their people were not captured, so have addressed it. Part of the reason why some people didn’t get the money was that we had a budget of N20billion which got exhausted by the time we were paying April and May, and we had another N2billion left to pay part of June.
“So, the President graciously approved another N8.9billion and this has been applied, the mandate has gone to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for disbursement through the IPPIS platform, so we hope that the issue of non payment of June will be a settled matter in a question of days.
“While as we have been able to get NARD to call of their strike, we have not been able to get JOHESU to give us a withdrawal of their ultimatum which is what we need in industrial relations because what they served was what we call trade dispute notice, so they need to cancel that trade dispute notice for their employers, they promised to go back to their executive and reach back to us as government side.
“I am a conciliator actually but I am in government. So, they reach me for transmission to their employers that they have accepted or they have not accepted. But we are optimistic that they will accept because we trashed every issue that was brought on the table.
“We also thank them for the resilience they have shown so far, they are like our soldiers in the health warfront, this is not fighting terrorism but it is also the same kind of fight where you expose yourself to risk. We also clarify for them the issue of group life insurance which the Federal Government paid N9.3billion to cover all the health workers and even we extended it to all workers in federal ministries and parastatals, they are treasury funded those who are not treasury funded like NNPC, PENCOM, NCAA, etc take care of themselves because they are revenue-generating.
“So, they have been aligned now to the appropriate method for putting up their claims through their various institutions and we put a timeline for the Federal Ministry of Health to handle that matter.”

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Rivers PDP To Inaugurate Zonal Offices In Senatorial Districts

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The Rivers State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has announced its readiness to inaugurate zonal offices across the three senatorial districts in the state.
The state party Chairman, Amb Desmond Akawor, disclosed this, yesterday, while receiving the members of the Forum of Former Local Government PDP Chairmen at the state party Secretariat in Port Harcourt.
According to him, the party zonal offices would serve as a closed medium to settle some minor differences at the grassroots.
Akawor urged the former party chairmen to be committed to the party’s activities, saying that the party cannot make use of somebody who does not show concern in the affairs of the party.
He commended the former chairmen for their commitment to produce two-term governor from the party in the state.
The party state chairman also commended the forum for producing members of the PDP as elected officers in almost all the elected offices, including local government council chairmen across the 23 LGAs in the state.
Akawor urged the forum to use their political experiences to support the party’s new executives in their various LGAs and the state to ensure that the party maintains its standard in subsequence elections in the state.
“Please, don’t say because you are no longer chairman and ignore party activities, involve in party activities and support the governor and the new party leadership to maintain the position of PDP in the state.
“Governor Nyesom Wike knows all of you as former party chairmen by name, some of you now are council chairmen, special advisers, members of the state party executive, among others. I am sure the rest of you would definitely be recognised again before this tenure runs out.
“But you must be loyal and committed to the progress of the party in your various LGAs”, Akawor advised.
Akawor said that no individual would be imposed on the party as council chairman come the next LGA election either because of personal relationship or position, saying that every aspirant must pass through the due process of the system.
In his speech, the Coordinator of the former chairmen forum, Hon Ikechi Chinda, said the forum was committed to support the party despite the fact that some of them were no longer in any position.
The coordinator used the opportunity to commend Governor Nyesom Wike and the leadership of the party for the support to ensure PDP reclaimed Edo State at the just concluded governorship election.
He appealed to the party leadership to always include them in the affairs of the party in the state.

 

By: Enoch Epelle

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Ogoni Clean-Up: Minister Hands Over Seven Completed Sites In Ogoniland

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The Minister of Environment, Dr Mahmood Abuakar, has handed over seven completed remediated oil spill polluted sites in Ogoniland in Rivers State to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) for scientific certification.
The sites are among the first 21 sites awarded to contractors by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) for clean-up in Ogoniland.
The seven sites are Lots 2,5,6 and 8 in Eleme Local Govenrment Area; Lot 10 in Gokana Local Government Area; and Lots 17 and 18 in Tai Local Government Area.
The minister, while handing over the completed sites during a colourful ceremony, yesterday, in Nkeleoken-Alode community in Eleme Local Government Area, expressed delight that the contractors that handled the sites were able to complete them for onward handover to NOSDRA for certification, and thanked the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for his support to the project.
He said after certification by NOSDRA, the sites would thereafter be handed over to President Muhammadu Buhari, who initiated the clean-up project in the first place.
Abubakar further thanked the people of the various communities in Ogoniland, particularly the youths for their cooperation and support to the clean-up project, stressing that the completion of the seven sites is a pointer to the fact that Buhari was determined to change the negative narratives of the people of the Niger Delta who have suffered over four decades of environmental pollution.
“It is a day of promise kept and kept to the letter in terms of standard and depth of work done”, he said, adding that, “a total of 208, 300 cubic metres of soil was treated from the seven lots using bio-remediation option, a method that is environmentally friendly and effective in removing pollutants from the soil.”
He said so far, progress has been made in the clean-up project but hinted that the Federal Ministry of Environment still yearns for more progress, as it does not want the clean-up to be done haphazardly.
“It is a project we want to ensure that it is done very well,” the minister said.
Abubakar further indicated that the clean-up project has created over 2,,000 direct jobs for Ogoni youths, stressing that the contractors would have completed their work earlier but for some factors that slowed down the pace of work.
“As a project, we would need your support and cooperation to achieve set goals, which goals are for the benefit of the Ogoni people,” he said, and appealed to host communities to the remediation sites to allow contractors to do their work without undue interference.
He said HYPREP is already training 1,200 Ogoni women in alternative livelihood skills in agro-allied ventures being handled by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNTIAR), adding that the first batch of 400 women drawn from the four Ogoni LGAs is ongoing.
He assured Ogoni people that “We will sustain progress on the clean-up of impacted sites and all other recommendations contained in the UNEP Report”.
On his part, the Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Dr Marvin Dekil, thanked the minister and the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, and the community leaderships as well as staff of HYPREP for their support.
He said the minister’s commitment and input gave a new impetus to the clean-up project, “thus, making us come thus far on the project”, stressing that he (the minister) has left indelible marks on the project that can be copied for similar projects elsewhere.
He hinted that the bio-cell technology adopted for the clean-up of less impacted sites is a success that could be adopted for remediation elsewhere.
“In awarding the contracts for remediation, we factored in the training of community workers in basic remediation skills as a way of developing local manpower so that the skills acquired can be used elsewhere at the end of their contracts,” he said, adding that technical assistants for the project which constitute over 90 percent of the workforce are Ogoni young scientists were trained in Switzerland.
The minister and his entourage, before handing over the completed sites paid a courtesy visit to the King of Eleme Kingdom, Emere Philip Osaro Obele, who assured that Eleme people would give 110 per cent support to the clean-up project.
Among those on the minister’s entourage included the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor; Director General of NOSDRA, Alhaji Idris O. Musa; the Cross River State Commissioner for Environment, Hon Mfon Bassey; and a host of other personalities.
Ikeazor, in a speech, urged HYPREP to engage more community people, and expressed joy that a reference laboratory to facilitate NOSDRA’s work is located in Port Harcourt, which she commissioned in January this year.

 

By: Donatus Ebi

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40 Killed In Kogi Tanker Inferno …As Gas Plant Blast Rocks Lagos

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Tears flowed freely yesterday morning in Felele, a community on the outskirt of Lokoja along Abuja-Lokoja highway, as a tanker truck laden with fuel caught fire and roasted no fewer than 40 people to death.
Most of the victims were said to be school children and their parents who were said to be going to school.
Also, five students of Kogi State Polytechnic living in the area, were reported to have been killed as they were heading to school along the highway
Several passersby, Okada riders and taxi cabs were also said to be trapped in the inferno which caused serious traffic gridlock on the highway.
A witness, who spoke to newsmen said no fewer than 40 corpses were counted on the scene, including those who were roasted beyond recognition.
But the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), confirmed 23 deaths, including seven school children.
Its Sector Commander for Kogi, Idris Ali, said the seven school children comprised 10 male adults and six female adults.
The commander said 10 vehicles, including five cars, three tricycles and two motorcycles were burnt in the inferno.
He said bodies of victims had been deposited at the Kogi State Specialist Hospital, Lokoja, where the only survivor was also receiving treatment.
He said 11 corpses had been claimed for burial by their relations.
The incident threw some schools that lost their students in the accident into mourning forcing them to hurriedly shut down.
One of them, the Baptist Group of Schools at Ganaja, lost three pupils and their parents to the accident, and its management immediately closed the school till September 28 in honour of the deceased.
The accident occurred when an Abuja-bound fuel tanker had a brake failure and in the process fell down at a spot close to GT Plaza and spilled its content on the road, which immediately caught fire.
The fire engulfed the entire spot and extended to other parts of the area, including a major a bus stop where school children, workers and other people were waiting to board vehicles to their various destinations.
Meanwhile, the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, has expressed shock and sorrow over the accident.
The governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Mohammed Onogu, yesterday, lamented the loss of lives and property in the accident which he described as sad and tragic.
Reacting last night, President Muhammadu Buhari, described the frequent petroleum tanker explosion and fire incidents as a national scandal caused by indifference to safety standards.
In a statement by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari said “these frequent incidents that result in loss of lives and property are a national scandal caused by our indifference to safety standards.”
He insisted that “many accidents are preventable if proper proactive and precautionary measures are put in place or properly observed as routine policies.”
Reacting, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, expressed shock over the petroleum tanker explosion in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital which resulted in the death of about 30 persons.
The PDP, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja, expressed worry over the slow pace of response by concerned authorities, saying “our party is extremely distressed by this horrid and traumatizing incident, which, in a very painful manner, cut short the lives of hardworking compatriots, brought instant anguish to families and painful material losses to many.
“It is even more disturbing that the fire raged without any intervention by authorities, which would have helped mitigated the effect.
“Indeed, the absence of fire and other emergency facilities around the area, despite the frequent occurrence of such accidents in the past signposts the failure and insensitivity of both the federal and Kogi State governments towards the dangers that daily confront the people.
“The PDP demands the Federal Government to put instant traffic measures to forestall such accidents as well as immediately establish emergency facilities in the area.
“Our party also calls on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fasola, to leave the comfort of their offices in Abuja and immediately visit the area as well as undertake a tour of our highways to witness the sorry state of infrastructure across our country, under their administration.
“The PDP commiserates with the families of the victims, the Kogi State Polytechnic, parents of the school children as well as the entire people of Kogi State,” the statement read.
However, to curb the incessant incidents of oil tanker explosions leading to loss of lives and property, the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), yesterday, met with the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) to discuss truck renewal project.
Speaking at the conference, the Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Ruqayyah Saraki, noted that tanker accidents caused more deaths in Nigeria than most deadly diseases and stressed that the meeting was timely to address the tanker explosion situation.
The minister, who was represented by the Assistant Director of Mass Transit Administration, Mrs Angela Keyede, said: “It might shock you to know that road crashes is a serious ‘epidemic’ in Nigeria that produces more deaths than HIV/AIDs and Tuberculosis (TB) put together annually. The ministry through the Nigeria Shippers Council under Public Private Partnership arrangement has identified some locations for Truck Transit Parks in the country.
Also speaking, the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Dr Boboye Oyeyemi, recalling the explosion which claimed over 30 lives, last Wednesday in Kogi State, charged MOMAN and NARTO to do proper safety examination of drivers, trucks and tankers before allowing them to move on the roads.
He said: “We have been battling with the tankers that are falling and killing scores of people. We need to really address these unnecessary killings on our highways, just yesterday around 30 people died in the Kogi explosion and a whole family was claimed. And if you listen to the comments of President Buhari, yesterday, you will notice he charged the relevant agencies and stakeholders to act. And I’m happy that MOMAN and NARTO are here today to address this”.
The Managing Director of MOMAN, Mr Adetunji Oyebanji, said that 80 per cent of the trucks involved in hauling products from the south of the country to the north do not have the relevant safety equipments needed for preventing ghastly explosions.
In his remarks, the National President of NARTO, Yusuf Lawal Othman, urged his members to renew their fleets and solicited support from MOMAN in the purchasing of trucks.
Meanwhile, panic gripped residents of Lagos and Ogun border communities, yesterday, following an explosion and massive fire.
The explosion, which was heard as far as Harmony Estate and Obawole, Ogba, Iju in Lagos as well as Akute Ogun State, was said to have occurred around 3:30pm around Balogun Bus Stop in Ishaga.
Contacted, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) confirmed the incident, urging residents to stay away from the area.
NEMA’s South-West Coordinator, Ibrahim Farinloye told newsmen, that the agency’s officials were on ground and fire service has been contacted.
He said: “Yes, a tanker exploded at Balogun Bus Stop, Iju Ishaga. Our people are already there and fire service has been informed.
“The tanker was trying to enter a gas plant when it exploded. There were domestic cylinders there and so, those ones also started exploding.
“The fire has not extended to any building. It is still within the gas plant. People sustained burn injuries but no deaths reported yet. We have contacted fire service. We appeal to people to stay away from the area,” he said.

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