Written by Ayo Ayodeji Tuesday, 22 May 2012 00:39
Since the Gov Fasola-ACN administration in Lagos dismissed 788 doctors fighting for their rights on Monday 7/5/12, there has been a massive condemnation of the regime. The doctors were merely demanding that the State obey the agreement is signed with them last year.
This premeditated and insane action further exposed the true face Fasola and the ACN to many more people. Many are still in shock and pain because of the reckless actions of the Lagos State government.
Millions of people who still use and depend on the few dilapidated public state hospitals are stranded and many lives have been lost.
Dismissing 788 doctors out of about 1,000 doctors for a state with a population of 17 million and ‘recruiting’ 373 casual doctors to handle the healthcare of such a huge population confirms that the ACN government is not interested in healthcare of the people at all.
Currently, the doctor to population ratio in Lagos state is about one doctor to 10,000 people, this far below the globally recommended one to hundred!
The dismissed doctors are part of the assets of the state’s health sectors as the state has invested heavily in their training over the years and they have gathered lots of experience over the years. These are very important in the healthcare sector, a sector heavily dependent on training and experience.
A breakdown of the 788 victimized doctors show a much clearer picture. They are made up of professors, medical consultants, general practitioners, etc, in various areas of medicine, surgeons, gynecologists, pediatricians, etc.
These are the men and women doing the job meant for at least 34,000 doctors and are on a low wage compared to their other colleagues. Yearly, these doctors treat over 3 million patients.
No doubt, the action of the Fasola-ACN government of dismissing and embarking on a massive disinformation campaign is quite insane and reckless to say the least.
The base of ACN remains lies and deceit. They feed the public with all forms of crude lies through the highly corrupt bourgeois media and promote bitterness against doctors fighting for their rights. They continue to appeal to the most backward layers of the society against the doctors. They continue to cover up the fact that they provoked the doctors’ action and that they shut down the hospitals and the teaching hospital.
This is typical of the ACN, which is more of an acronym for Alliance of Corrupt Nigerians.
They openly lie that the State government has implemented the CONMESS, and say that Lagos doctors receive the highest pay in Nigeria; they say that doctors are responsible for the collapsed healthcare of the state.
They always fail to mention that their policy of commercialization and privatization is responsible for the poor state of healthcare in the state and that these policies made the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath irrelevant.
However, all these disinformation and attacks have come to nothing in the face of the strength of the movement of the doctors and solidarity they are receiving from other exploited and oppressed sections of the society. Solidarity for the doctors is quite high among the Lagos workers who are facing similar attacks from the ACN government.
Background to the Strike
The CONMESS, which is the new wage scale for doctors had been agreed upon nationally since 2009. Lagos doctors were forced to call two strikes over its non-implementation; this was in August–September 2010 and February–March 2011.
Lagos State agreed to pay the wage scale due to the March 2011 doctors’ strike; it was this agreement that made doctors call off their strike in March 2011. The agreement was signed by the Lagos State government with the godfathers of the ACN (Tinubu former governor and Henry Ajomale ACN party head) cosigning the document.
Part of the agreement then was the State would pay the doctor only one-month arrears instead of seven months. This was a concession from the doctors.
The whole essence of the CONMESS is to have a national wage scale for medical workers in Nigeria. This is supposed to allow medical practitioners stay anywhere in the country and deliver service.
The Lagos State government agreed to pay the CONMESS but it refused to comply fully and it crudely made sure they shortchanged the doctors. This was done by:
1. Refusing to pay House Officers & Medical Officers teaching allowance and lying to the public that they don’t teach. These levels of medical officers do teach undergraduates and therefore are entitled to be paid for the service. This is the reason why the allowance was approved and it is been implemented at federal level.
2. They demoted all doctors from senior medical officer above.
3. Selective implementation of CONMESS between doctors in the health service and Lagos State teaching hospital.
4. Increased taxes in multiple folds without following the laid down taxation rule. Federal doctors in Lagos who earn more than Lagos doctors due to the implementation CONMESS pay less income tax to Lagos State than Lagos State doctors.
All these made nonsense of the CONMESS scale; it became a case of giving with one hand and taking back with the other.
This is exactly the same way Fasola-ACN shortchanged the State’s civil service over payment of the N18,000.00 minimum wage. Till date Lagos State pays below the national minimum wage but says on paper that it is paying above.
They were capable of getting away with this crime for now because of the active collaboration of the leaders of the Lagos State NLC – TUC and top leadership civil service workers’ unions.
However, unlike the leadership of the Lagos State civil service unions and State NLC – TUC, the leadership of the medical doctors’ guild is more democratic, principled and dynamic. This made it quite difficult for State to corrupt and manipulate. Based on these, doctors could more easily put pressure on their officials to defend their interests.
The doctors had been trying fruitlessly over the past months to discuss these issues with the State government. They were completely ignored. They had to result to the warning strike. The main demand is for the regime honor the agreement it signed.
Why Fasola & ACN want to crush the doctors
What is at stake in the struggles of the doctors today is far beyond the issue of full implementation of the CONMESS.
No doubt, Lagos State is quite capable to pay. It has been estimated that full implementation will cost Lagos State less than an additional N50 million monthly. This is chicken feed when compared to how much Fasola & ACN spent on the celebration of 60th birthday of their main godfather Tinubu. The birthday party cost over N2 billion!
What is really at stake for Fasola and the ACN is really the smashing of the will of the medical doctors to fight for their right in order to discourage other workers in Lagos from doing the same.
The doctors’ struggles have exposed the rotten hypocrisies of the ACN; they have demystified their invisibility and confirmed the strength of the working class.
Fasola-ACN government is a highly exploitative and oppressive government that makes many pretensions. They have crudely carried out various attacks on the masses in Lagos and they continue to loot the State dry. From privatizing major roads, to increment in school fees, to shortchanging civil service workers, to demolition of houses without compensation, privatizing healthcare, the list is quite long.
They fear the backlash from the masses that is why they continue to corrupt union leaders, media chiefs, etc, to cover up their atrocities and hold down the masses.
Since they could not continue to subdue the doctors, they crudely attack them and shut down the entire public medical service of the state. This is quite typical of impotent cowards.
After the 3-day warning strike in April, the State issued queries, deployed armed policemen with armoured tanks to stop doctors’ meetings from holding and tried to arrest medical guild officials. The doctors had no choice to go back on strike.
Fasola dismissed the doctors and shut down medical services. The consequences of this action cannot be quantified now.
The ‘new’ doctors Fasola claimed the State had recruited are incapable to deliver healthcare, as they are inexperienced and the workload remains quite heavy.
Impending Revolution in Lagos
“You can do anything with the bayonet except sit on it.” In spite of repression and conning, a mass revolt is inevitable in Lagos.
Over 12 years of ACN rule has brought nothing but poverty, pain and despair to the masses of Lagos. Only the minority rich have benefited.
This regime has attacked and robbed workers, students, traders, taxi drivers, okada riders, artisans, professionals, unemployed, the sick, beggers, etc.
There is growing anger in Lagos. It is only a matter of time before the anger is transformed into a mass revolt.
Fasola-ACN’s Destruction of Healthcare
No value has actually been added to the health sector since 13 years of ACN rule in Lagos, except for the claims in the media. The hospitals remain glorified abattoirs, thanks for the neo-liberal capitalist policies of the ACN.
The ACN’s policy of Public Private Sector Partnership, PPP, is more of “Private Plundering Public Sector free of charge”. They commercialized and privatized various public healthcare services, such as mortuary, laboratories, pharmacies, diagnostic centers, etc. Their associates, friends and ACN top chieftains took over. While public medical workers, doctors included, do all the work, they collected the money.
In spite of the need for more doctors, nurses, etc, the state is not recruiting. Lagos needs to recruit at least 17,000 doctors in order to make attempt to give a sane healthcare service. The school of nursing was closed down and its property in Ikoyi was sold to ACN chieftains who plan to convert it into a hotel.
New public hospitals have not been established, while low quality private hospitals are mushrooming everywhere. It is the same hospital site established during colonial rule and during 70s-80s that were refurbished by the ACN government in Lagos.
Scores of people are dying by the day in public hospitals because of all these policies.
NLC & TUC Leadership must wake up
The lack of response of both the State and National NLC-TUC leaderships to the current attack on doctors is quite unfortunate. During the last Mayday, the State NLC-TUC leaderships were full of praises for Fasola. They in fact gave him an award and even shielded the governor from any form of criticism.
The attack on healthcare is a direct attack on the working class. The rich don’t use the public hospitals except under emergency or when they need referral to foreign hospitals.
Labour cannot be neutral or maintain a criminal silence on this issue. Rather, it must be on the side of the doctors and rally support for the struggle against State attack on healthcare.
Secondly, labour must fight for improved pay, implementation of the N18,000.00 minimum wage and for better working conditions in Lagos civil service
Solidarize with Victimized Lagos Doctors
To solidarize with Lagos doctors is a blow to ACN tyranny in Lagos. It is declaration of support for the exploited and oppressed masses that would inevitable fight for their rights in the coming period.
In spite of the disinformation campaign by the Fasola government, support for the Lagos doctors has grown. The realities of the day in the hospitals shut down by Fasola continue to expose the true nature of the regime.
Score are dying and suffering by the day, they just don’t care.
Fasola has hiked school fees, imposed tollgates, rendered thousands homeless, has made healthcare unavailable to majority, imposed multiple taxes on the masses, etc, only the rich benefits.
As doctors are standing up against these draconian policies, it is important other exploited strata of the society join in solidarity. It is time to put more pressure on Labour leaders to end their silence and lead workers in struggle for better pay and working conditions.
Support the demand for:
Reinstate all 788 dismissed doctors.
For full implementation of CONMESS.
For Free and Qualitative Healthcare program!
End Commercialization & Privatization of Healthcare.