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Libya returnees protest against poor welfare

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Hundreds of angry Libya returnees in Edo State yesterday took to the streets of Benin, the state capital, protesting against what they described as poor welfare condition provided by members of the Taskforce on Human Trafficking and illegal Migration in the state.
The taskforce was set up by Governor Godwin Obaseki to take care of Libyan returnees of the state’s indigene.
They also took their complaint to the Government House, where they called on the governor to as a matter of urgency beam his searchlight on the activities of the taskforce.
According to the protesters, aside the fact that most of them were yet to start receiving the monthly N20, 000 stipends, the initial 600 set of returnees only got the stipend once.
They also accused the taskforce officials of organising a ‘face saving’ two weeks training on various skills for them without starter parks.
Spokesman of the protesters, Orobosa Odion, said they sensed something was amiss because each time they protested over poor treatment, the taskforce will quickly arrange little money called ‘transport fare’ for them to calm their nerves.
“How do you explain a situation where a would-be fashion designer will be trained for just two weeks? Is this not a scam? This people are not just taking us serious.

“The worst of it was the treatment we received during the training, where we were fed like beggars for two weeks. The same apply to the monthly stipend where those that have started receiving only got it once while majority are yet to be captured. The initial promise is for each of the returnees to get that stipend for three months.

“We know the governor meant well for us but there is the need for him to have a close look at the activities of the task force.

But in a swift reaction, the taskforce yesterday debunked the claim of poor welfare being given to the returnees. It also blamed the returnees’ irregularity on their bank particulars as well as the fact that the taskforce was yet to get approval from the government for the delay in the payment of the stipend.

According to the accountant, Mr. Chris Ogbomo, “This protest is simply as a result of misinformation, because the returnees were supposed to be addressed by the Ministry of Wealth Creation, Employment and Cooperatives, about the soft loan they were to get upon the completion of the two weeks training.

“Speaking on the training programme, the two weeks they were trained on various trade, including fashion, was meant to be basic training, they will still get comprehensive training.

“As for the stipends, we will pay as soon as the money hit our account, the taskforce do not keep money in the account. What we do is apply to the government and once the money hits our account, we do the needful,” he said.

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Lagos workers get N100m housing subvention

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…as Ambode okays Fagba flyover

Lagos State Head of Service, Mrs Folashade Adesoye yesterday said that the state had increased its budgetary provision for Housing loans for its members of staff from N50 million to N100 million with a view to improving workers’ welfare.

Adesoye, who disclosed this at the on-going ministerial briefing, said the Staff Housing Board had so far disbursed loans to about 280 public servants from various MDAs, saying a total of N95, 033, 564 had so far been disbursed to the staff.

She said: ‘’ I am extremely delighted to inform you that the budgetary provision for Housing loan has increased from N50 million to N100 million, laying credence to government’s commitment to staff welfare.

“However, owing to the increasing number of staff and the opening up of new residential areas, there is a conspicuous deficit in the number of buses. However, His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has promised to re-fleet the scheme with state –of – the-art buses.

“In a bid to develop a world class public service where staff have the right attitude, government has initiated issuance of Letters of Commendation to officer identified to have consistently met or exceeded set targets and exhibited exceptional work ethics and diligence in the discharge of their duties.’’

Meanwhile, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had approved construction of a flyover bridge at the Fagba intersection to ease perennial traffic gridlock and reduce travel time within the axis.

The governor approved the construction of the Fagba Flyover Bridge after an inspection of the ongoing construction of Pen Cinema Flyover Bridge, where he observed the need to holistically address the traffic gridlock around Agege-Iju axis to make Pen Cinema Flyover Bridge more effective.

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Stop killings or resign, protesters tell Buhari

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Hundreds of Catholic Church members yesterday staged a peaceful protest in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, over the horrendous killings in some parts of the country.

They asked President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently embark on measures to stop the killings and restore peace to troubled spots.

The protesters, who gathered at the St. Anne Catholic Church, Ibara, Abeokuta, took to the streets after a requiem mass for the repose of two priests and 17 parishioners killed in Benue State by suspected herdsmen in April.

 

They were armed with placards bearing inscriptions such as “President Buhari, protect Nigerians or resign,” “Human life is sacred,” “Killing is a sin,” “We want peace in Nigeria,” and “Enough is enough, government be responsible.”

Speaking with reporters after the mass, the Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta, Most Rev. Peter Odetoyinbo, said the Federal Government must act fast and curb wanton bloodshed in the country.

“Protection of lives is so important in the country. We must protect lives.”

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Editorial

End health workers’ strike now

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The game being played by the Federal Government and health workers under the auspices of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) is dangerous to the health of Nigerians and the economic wellbeing of the Nigerian nation.

 

On April 17, JOHESU called out its members, which include the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutes (SSAUTHRIA), National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Medical and Health Workers Union (NHWU) and the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Workers (NUAHP), on a nationwide strike to force the hands of the Federal Government to accede to its requests.

 

JOHESU’s demands include the implementation of the adjusted Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS), the payment of specialist allowances to deserving health professionals, payment of arrears of the skipping of CONHESS 10, increase of retirement age of health workers from 60 to 65 years and the review of the composition of the Boards of Federal Health Institutions (FHIs), as well as the abolition of the position of Deputy Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (DCMAC), among others.

 

But the Federal Government, from all indications, is not ready to accede to the striking workers’ demands.

 

In one of his reactions to the strike, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said JOHESU’s demand to be on the same pay level with doctors was not realistic. Adewole, said instead, salaries and wages of the health workers would be adjusted.

 

While the altercation between the union and the Federal Government is going on, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) threw its hat in the ring.

 

The association threatened to embark on strike if the Federal Government acceded to JOHESU’s demands. Both the F e d e r a l G ov e r n – ment and the NMA seem to be on the same page in terms of their stand on the JOH E S U ’ s strike. But while the Federal G ov e r n – ment and the medical pract i t i o n e r s have taken healthcare to the chess b o a r d , many people, the majority being the poor, are paying the price.

 

While patients have been sent away from public health facilities, those who could afford to pay have gone to seek medical attention in private hospitals.

 

But those who could not pay have resigned to fate. It may be difficult to get the number of those who might have died because of lack of data in Nigeria. But certainly, a lot would have needlessly lost the battle to stay alive, albeit due to what could be termed minor health challenges, because of the ongoing strike. The strike has claimed lives. We sympathise with the 19 members of JOHESU who were injured in an accident on the Benin-Auchi Road on Saturday.

 

About 40 health workers, said to be staff of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) chapter of the union, were on their way to a function in line with the strike in Auchi, when the accident occurred. An engineer with an information technology firm reportedly lost his life.

 

The man, a victim of armed robbery, was reportedly rejected at a private hospital because there was no police report, but there were no health workers to attend to him at the government-owned health facility he was later taken to.

 

So the breadwinner of a family lost his life because of the strike. Several others are dying but their deaths are probably not reported. Unfortunately, the strike came when the President also had to take a medical trip to the United Kingdom. But apart from the leaders, how many Nigerians could afford to go outside the country for medical attention?

 

That probably explains why the leaders may not be keen in addressing the demands of the striking health workers.

 

While we cannot deny workers, particularly those in the health sector, the right to take steps to seek redress to their perceived short-change in the hands of their employers, going on strike at the slightest opportunity does nobody no good. In other climes, strikes have gone out of fashion. We encourage workers’ unions in Nigeria to devise new but proactive means to get employers to accede to their demands.

 

It is also pertinent to note that JOHESU was yet to comply with the directive by the National Industrial Court (NIC), Abuja, which, last Thursday, ordered the union to suspend its strike and resume duties within 24 hours.

 

Justice Babatunde Adejumo, who is president of NIC, gave the order after listening to the submissions of Mr. Okere Nnamdi in an ex-parte motion filed by a non-governmental organisation, Incorporated Trustees of Kingdom Human Rights Foundation International.

 

Adejumo ordered the Ministers of Health, Labour and Employment, among others, to immediately set up a committee to address issues raised by labour.

 

The judge ordered that the parties should arrive at an acceptable and amicable solution in the interest of Nigerians who are bearing the brunt of the strike action. We also implore the Federal Government to immediately find a lasting solution to the incessant strikes in the health sector.

 

This is necessary in order to safe many more souls which will be lost to the strike. A failed nation is it which cannot provide for the economic and health needs of its citizens.

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