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Nigeria’s trade unions most irresponsible – el-Rufai

Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai has lambasted the organized labour unions in the country, saying they have destroyed the nation more than they have contributed to it apart from being irresponsible.

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He was speaking Thursday in Abuja at a ‘Governance Matters’ roundtable organized by the Development Alternative Incorporation (DAI).
DAI is an international organization working to meet the critical service delivery needs of Nigerians and has improved domestic resources mobilization at the state and local government levels, improved and increased access to maternal and child health services across the country and especially in Northern Nigeria.
The governor who said the excesses of the trade unions must be curtailed said it is time to remove labour matters from the exclusive list to save the nation from constant confrontation by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and other organised trade unions against popular government policies especially in the areas of education and health.
“Trade Unions have never served the country well. They have been selfish and everything is about their narrow interests. In general, in Nigeria, trade unions have been a danger to our progress and I think they should be curtailed. The mistake we made as a country was placing trade unions in the Exclusive Legislative List.
If the Academic Staff Unions of Universities (ASUU) has an issue with the Federal Government, the state universities will go on strike too. We need to take labour matters out from the exclusive list so that the principle of no work, no pay could be effectively used to stop labour arrogance of unnecessary demands from government which has helped to kill our educational system and health sector.
“In Kaduna, I warned the Kaduna State University, that if you ever go on strike again because of somebody else, I will fire all of you. I think the health unions have been the most irresponsible because only an irresponsible doctor will abandon his patients even after swearing to the Hippocratic Oath. I think Nigerian doctors are the only ones on the planet that go on strike,” he said.
The governor said the state saved about N100m when it enforced the no work, no pay rule against the state varsity lecturers for 23 days that they were on strike.  
On the minimum wage discuss, he said, “I think we need to do some things. First, take labour matters out of the Exclusive List because many of us are victims of agreements reached with ASUU by the federal government. The states were never part of such agreements. Secondly, is the issue of minimum wage, except we set a very low minimum wage, there will continue be issues especially with states that do not have wide tax net. You cannot set the same minimum wage for Lagos and Jigawa. Also, we must apply the labour laws strictly. No work, no pay, because there has to be a trade dispute before anything strike. That is what the law says.”
El-Rufai also accused some past governors of Yobe and Borno states for been responsible for the emergence of the Boko Haram sect due to their negligence of the education sector.
He said, “We tended to ignore this problem (of out of school children) but this problem when ignored gave us Boko Haram. If you look at education statistics in Yobe and Borno in 2003 and 2004, you could reasonably predict that Boko Haram would happen within a decade. So, this is a huge problem.”
Also Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State said that because of the importance of quality education and health to the overall development of mankind, the state government has begun massive investments in the two sectors for the benefit of the people.
“We have established more hospitals and healthcare services for our people, we are also investing in the training of our health personnel in the state, we believe that the dividends of our efforts will begin to manifest within the shortest possible time,” Ganduje said.
In her openings DAI Representative from Bethesda, Ms Jeremy Kanthor said the forum was organised to achieve the mission of its founding fathers of nearly 50 years ago to make lasting difference in the world by helping people improve their lives.
She said, “We currently implement seven projects for four clients in Nigeria, DFID, the European Commission, Chevron and the US States Agency for International Development (USAID) working at the federal state and local levels on issues of governance, economic policy, public health, water and sanitation among others.”
According to her, to strengthen the long term operational capacity in Nigeria, DAI has named a former DG of the Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR) Dr Joe Abah as its Country Director and recently acquired GRID Consulting, a Nigeria’s premier development consulting firm and longtime partner on their DFID portfolio.
On his part the Minister of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole said that three states of Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi presently has the highest rate of the Lassa fever disease, a situation he blamed on some Doctors who usually fail to ensure that patience are subjected to tests before administering malaria fever doses instead of the Lassa fever medication.
He said, “Let me state that Nigeria has a large stock of human resources, the problem is that of distribution. There is a wide gap between the north and the south. Over 60 percent of our human resources are concentrated in Lagos and Abuja and the rest have little to cope with. There is a state in this country with 23 doctors and 24 hospitals. That means we do not even have one doctor for one hospital.
“I was at Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital and they said they needed more staff and I said no, that we are over-staffed at the federal level. Over 80 percent of our resources is dedicated to personnel cost and we cannot really deliver on our mandate where the large chunk of allocation is for personnel and then you have a situation where the states cannot pay salaries.”
He also said that every suspected incidence of malaria should be handled as Lassa fever until proven otherwise after clinical screenings.
“Lassa is entirely a disease that should stay among animals but we have animal-human barriers being jumped and then we are affected. When healthcare workers are infected, everybody coming in contact with that worker is in trouble and that is why we believe we need to do certain things. We can treat Lassa fever when we detect it early. We are telling our health workers that it is not every fever that is malaria. In the past, once there is fever, they treat malaria for three, four, five days and when there is no improvement, they change to typhoid fever and treat for another one week and by the second week, the fellow with the viral hemorrhagic fever would have had a renal shut down and start bleeding from al the orifices and then is gone beyond treatment.
“So, what we are saying is that no one should treat malaria without diagnosis. There are rapid diagnostic tests to treat malaria. So, once you check and it is not malaria, you think Lassa straight away. You have just lost a few hours not two weeks and every suspected case must be treated as a case of Lassa until proven otherwise,” the Minister said.

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