After two months of silence from govt, Delta Nurses resolve to down tools, proceed on the indefinite strike
Nurses in Delta state under the aegis of National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) have concluded plans to resume the suspended strike which was put on hold following intervention from the state governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa.
The association embarked on strike last year in protest over the appointment of a level 14 officer as Director of Nursing Services (DNS) in the state Ministry of Health. The nurses’ grievance is that there are other senior nurses who are higher than the nurse appointed. The nurses said a grade level 14 Nursing Officer is not a Director of Nursing (DNS) but a Chief Nursing Officer (CNO).
“There are level 15 and 16 officers who are senior to her and could be in that position. It is out of place for a junior nurse to become director, and making policies for all categories of nurses in various levels of health care in Delta state. We are demanding that the most senior nurse be placed on that position,” one of the executive members said.
The nurses, who could not fathom the reason for the appointment of a junior nurse as director of nursing services, said the governor is not tribalistic adding that “we know the governor is a father to all Deltans, that is why we are fully in support of his administration.”
The suspended strike followed series of meetings with the commissioner for health, Dr. Ononye Mordi. “Several appeals for him to see reason did not yield meaningful result as he kept saying that all the nurses appointed before this time were all juniors. This is not true as DNS Osanekwu was appointed on GL 15, Ugbanaka was wrongly appointed by Dr. Ononye Mordi which led to a union protest which he paid deaf ears to.
“The commissioner of health has also said that Nurses employed by the Ministry of Health and those whose services were transferred to the ministry and deployed to schools are no longer staff of the ministry. The nurses see this as ridiculous. Hence, the nurses resolved to embark on the strike to press home their demands,” another nurse said.
But after much entreaty from concerned stakeholders including executives of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the intervention of the state governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who promised to look into the issue raised, the nurses resolved to suspend the strike for two weeks in December 2020.
The two weeks suspension was to allow space for the governor and the commissioner to correct the anomalies and appoint the right officer as Director of Nursing Services in the state. The strike started on Thursday December 3, 2020 and was suspended on December 8, 2020 when the nurses were called back to the hospitals.
But following the failure of the state government to make necessary correction after approximately two months of suspension of strike, the nurses have resolved to embark on an indefinite strike action which will send all nurses from the state hospitals and primary health centres across the state.
In an emergency meeting held at the state secretariat of NANNM in Asaba, the Delta state capital on Thursday February 4, 2021, the entire body of nurses agreed that the system should be shutdown indefinitely until the state government granted their demand.
The decision was reached after a heated argument at the secretariat where some suggested various means to approach the matter. Some suggested approaching the court, others called for more dialogues, some said NLC officials should be involved while some called for an enlarged press conference and a state wide peaceful protest.
But it was finally resolved by the whole house that the best method to achieve their objective was to shutdown the system.
It was also agreed that two weeks beginning from Thursday February 4 to Thursday February 18, 2021 be given as notice of indefinite strike to the state government as days of grace. And if the government fails within the two weeks window, the system will go down.
Emerald News can report that there has been a long drawn battle between the commissioner for health, Dr. Mordi Ononye, and the nurses in the state over series of issues ranging from appointment of a junior officer to head nursing department in the ministry of health among other plethora of demands.
Some of the members who spoke to Emerald News after the meeting said the health commissioner has been displaying nonchalant attitude towards the demands of the nurses in Delta state.
“At the beginning, we gave them 21 days ultimatum to respond to our issues, they did not respond. We proceeded to another 14 days, there was no reaction. They kept mute. Then, we moved again to seven days, they ignored us. That was why SEC decided to call for the initial strike,” one of the members told our reporter.
In the suspended strike embarked upon, some of their members who were monitoring compliance were harassed and arrested but were released following interventions by members of NLC.
One of the SEC members also alleged that there are ongoing falsification of records in the ministry of health to favour the previously styled functional DNS.