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By on May 31, 2012

It’s now over three weeks that the Fashola Administration in Lagos, in a kangaroo style, sacked 788 striking medical doctors. Still, Governor Fashola and his government, against the voices of reason and conscience are adamant, maintaining their hard-line posture. The Administration in its stubbornness and unlawful quest went ahead to recruit Locum Medical Officers to fill the void created by the sacked doctors and is forcefully evicting the sacked doctors in flagrant disregard of the tenancy law signed by the same State government last year. That law provides that a minimum of six months “Notice to Quit” be served on a sitting tenant. How then could a government that prides itself on democracy and the rule of law break the law it signed?

From the outset, the government has maintained that it sacked the doctors because of its concern for the health and welfare of the people, yet under the given period, the State governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola has had to send his father for treatment overseas. The government has also claimed the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital is the fastest growing Hospital in West Africa. If the conditions in the Lagos State Healthcare System are as wonderful as the State government has said, why then should the governor send his father for medical care overseas?

In this difficult times of challenge for democracy, and in the face of the gruelling erosion of freedom across the country and Lagos in particular, it is crucial to put issues as this in proper perspective.

At the heart of the issue, is the refusal of the Fashola Administration to implement the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) signed in 2009 between the Nigerian government and the umbrella body for all doctors in Nigeria, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). The Fashola Administration had not only refused to pay the doctors the CONMESS, it had also been deliberately demoting some doctors time and again, including the sack of key leaders in the Medical Guild that led strike actions.

It is apt to state here that the dispute and strike action didn’t just start now. It actually started since 2009, and is only suspended each time to make room for negotiations and concessions but the State government had never reciprocated the gesture, forgetting the timeless truth that disputes are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides. Despite the agreements signed by the Fashola Administration with the doctors, including one signed on its behalf by Asijawu Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governor Fashola’s predecessor, and founder and National Leader of the ruling Party in the State, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Fashola Administration still refuses to honour its commitments and obligations (See attached Documents, including a Statement from the sacked striking doctors).

The ignoring of the silent majority, the orchestrated move to stifle the voices of dissent, and the deliberate muzzling of workers’ rights by the Fashola Administration and the opposition ACN, only strengthens the subliminal notion that the ACN is as undemocratic and anti-people a party as the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party at the centre and perhaps worse.

Similarly, the action of the State government appointing Locum Medical Officers to fill the void created by the sacked doctors is not only a casualisation of the medical profession, but more importantly, it is as an utter disrespect for the lives of the Lagos State People. Locums generally are persons who temporarily fulfill the duties of others. Though the practices of using the services of Locums are common in some countries, they are never used or considered as real substitutes as the Fashola Administration had done. Moreover, in these countries, they are often acquired from specific agencies through a national framework agreement. In contrast, there is no such framework that guides what the State government had done, except the terms of contract it signed with them. Details from those terms of contract reveals that the Locums are not employees and can be fired at will by the Fashola Administration. They have no right to a union or collective bargaining, and cannot embark on strikes or any industrial action to seek relief; the only available option for them in the event of grievances is mediation. The terms of engagement also reveals that since there is no guaranteed income for them, the Locums will be paid N5,000-N7,000 every four hours worked. While this may provide the Lagos State government the flexibility it seeks in its dealings with the doctors, and also allows the Locum doctors to get vast experiences in an array of specialisation fields, the government will in the long term incur higher costs than it would for the retainment of the services of the sacked doctors. In addition, the transient nature of the Locums work by virtue of the terms of engagement means extra workload and stress for them, and as such they won’t provide the adequate and quality healthcare that the people so need. Furthermore, in situations where patients case histories with specific doctors are important, the Locums might not be able to abreast themselves or meet up to treat such patients, and those patients likewise, would want to be treated by their own doctors, and not by constantly shifting doctors. Such emotional and psychological responses from patients would only exacerbate their case. In the end, the Locums may be seen to be posing a risk, and would not be able to function effectively, especially when you add the resentments they will suffer from permanent staff members. In the long run, it is the people that will bear the brunt, and the Fashola Administration would have achieved nothing other than feeding its bloated ego.

To this end, we task the Fashola Administration to be altruistic and toe the path of honour, wise restraint and common sense. We demand that it swallow its pride and recall the sacked doctors with immediate effect. This must be done quickly if things are to improve, for until there is a significant and profound change in the life and policy of this Administration in Lagos, there can be no progress.

We also demand that the Lagos State House of Assembly do what is right, and swing immediately into positive action to right the wrongs made by the Executive arm of government. This is very imperative as the people can no longer tolerate a rubber stamp Assembly that is only an appendage to the Executive.

Finally, we call on the Diplomatic Community, and the relevant Foreign Missions, on the basis of conscience and support for freedom and human rights, to put a moratorium on the issuance of VISAs, and revoke all existing VISAs to all officials (Elected and Appointed) of the Lagos State government and their families and cronies, banning them from seeking or getting medical attention overseas until the government do what is right, respect the lives of the good people of Lagos State, recall the sacked doctors, and take every necessary step to address all issues based on mutual respect.


  Eneruvie Enakoko is the Chief Executive of Conscience Reports.

Follow him on twitter @renakoko