Workers at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Owerri, the Imo State capital, have faulted Federal Government’s reinstatement of the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Dr. Angela Uwakwem.
The unions, under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) and Assembly of Health Care Professionals (AHCP), said Dr. Uwakwem should be made to face alleged corruption charges levelled against her by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
The Federal Government, last October, announced the reinstatement of Dr. Uwakwem and advised those unhappy with its decision to resign.
But the health workers insisted that the government’s action should be reversed.
JOHESU petitioned the Presidency and the EFCC on the decision of the Federal Ministry of Health on the reinstatement.
JOHESU President Biobelemoye Josiah and National Secretary Florence Ekpebor said Dr Uwakwem’s reinstatement was against the extant rules governing the service.
Josiah said JOHESU did not understand why the ministry hastily reinstated the CMD when she had been charged to court by the anti-graft agency.
The union leader said the union was fighting to have a corruption-free FMC in Owerri.
He said the ministry’s action was not the best in the circumstance, especially when her case was before a court.
Josiah said government’s call on those unhappy with her reinstatement to resign was another way to intimidate and cow the workers.
The union leader urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call the ministry to order, adding that its action was against the anti-corruption stance of his administration.
He also said Dr Uwakwem’s reinstatement could jeopardise the alleged corruption case.
According to him, it is possible for her to destroy factual evidence that could be used against her.
Also, the union’s Legal Adviser Ahmed Adetola Kazeem said: “The issues are very narrow. You all know that the CMD of FMC in Owerri is a public servant. Public service rules are clear. The Minister of State (for Health) did not act to specification, given the provisions of the public service rule.
“Particularly, I want to refer to a section of the rules that should have been taken cognisance of in deciding whether to reinstate her or allow processes of the criminal proceedings to take its full course before resort was made to reinstate her.
“Rule 030404 of the public service rules, particularly sub-section 2, states that when the charge against a public servant is such that the continued performance of present duties is against public interest or prejudicial to the investigation of the charge against him or her, consideration shall be given to putting him or her on alternative duties.
“In another section, it is also recommended that she be suspended or interdicted.
“Now, 18-count charges have been proffered against her by the EFCC. Some of the exhibits are immovable property. Also, some of the witnesses slated to be produced in court are workers of the FMC. So, what do we really expect? I think it was not the best decision that she was reinstated in the manner she was reinstated.”
The JOHESU chairman said the ministry always “told us that the moment charges are pressed against her, it would take appropriate action. Now, charges are made and they are doing a different thing.”
On the union’s next line of action, Josiah said: “We have outlined a number of actions that we will take. But we are notifying the government and the President, who is the chief executor of anti-corruption war. We are telling him that there is corruption and there is an effort to cover it up. So, if the policy has changed and nothing is done, then we will follow up with next line of action.”
The FMC at Owerri has been plagued by internal wrangling, which pitched the management against the workers, thereby paralysing activities at the medical centre.
It forced the Federal Government to set up an interim management team to run the hospital while the management was under investigation.
Announcing government’s decision, Minister of State for Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire said after due consultation with stakeholders and relevant authorities, the Federal Ministry of Health decided that Dr. Uwakwem should resume her functions and be supported by a team from the Federal Ministry of Health in Abuja.The Nation