Published On: Fri, Jun 5th, 2015

Chaos as police, thugs, attack protesting workers at Enugu Federal Psychiatric hospital


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NHA-protest1
 
*Activities at the hospital paralyzed
 
The peaceful protest organized by the striking workers of the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, New Haven, Enugu, over the non-payment of their entitlements and the alleged maltreatment of the workers, turned bloody Thursday morning as some thugs invited by the hospital’s management attacked the workers with axes and other dangerous weapons.

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The Chairman of the Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU, Mr. Alozie Ejimmadu, sustained injuries on his head and was rushed to the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, UNTH, Ituku-Ozalla where doctors are now battling to save his life.
A management staff, acting on behalf of the hospital’s Chief Medical Director, Dr.  Jojo Onwukwe, and who was armed with a sharp axe, allegedly gave the union leader a deep cut on his head at the gate of the hospital where he and other aggrieved workers had converged at about 8 am for the peaceful protest.
As a result, medical activities in the hospital were paralyzed as workers, patients and visitors were denied access to the hospital for several hours.
The labour leaders said the strike action which would be called off only when their demands were met by the Dr. Onwukwe-led management, advised people to stay away from the hospital as no services would be rendered during the period of the strike.
Some of their placards read: “Pay us our teaching allowance, 2014/2015 increment allowance”,  “Jojo Onwukwe stop divide and rule”, “Give us our due promotions and conversions”, “Our President Listen to our cries, remove Dr Onwukwe for us” and “Stop bribery for second tenure” .
However, the protest by the aggrieved workers, became violent as the thugs brought in by a teaching staff of the hospital, descended on them.
A team of policemen from Abakpa Area command led by the Area Commander,  Mark Igwe, and a team of Department of State Service, DSS,  operatives, later arrived the scene and advised the protesting workers to eschew violence in their agitations.
But when the Divisional Police Officer for New Haven, Enugu drove to the hospital in a patrol van, he ordered the workers to leave the premises immediately.  When they refused to disperse, the DPO and thugs forcefully pushed them from the hospital’s gate.
The police officer released some shots as the thugs and some policemen from his Division pursued some of the workers in a bid to arrest them for staging the protest.
The Area Commander had advised the protesters to channel their grievances to the appropriate quarters in a peaceful manner saying “If you want to embark on strike you must conduct yourselves  peacefully  and avoid taking the laws into your hands.”  He asked them to allow patients free access into the hospital, but the DPO, who was not satisfied by the Area Commander’s directive, pushed them out of the hospital premises.
The labour leaders, who spoke on their grievances, complained that they were being victimized by the CMD for demanding their legitimate entitlements, pointing out that after meeting with the management on the various contentious issues, nothing was done to address them hence their decision to embark on strike.  
Comrade Mathias Okonkwo, the state chairman, Joint Trade Union, Enugu State, who led the protest, told newsmen that “the management of this hospital has been intimidating and victimizing labour leaders because they told them to pay their entitlements and allowances.”
He said: “There is no promotion for the past three years and there is no
increment. They listed fourteen issues for the management to implement. They gave the Chief Medical Director 21 days ultimatum, which failed and after which they gave him another seven days that expired yesterday (Wednesday).  Now they invited us and instead of the management listening to them, he gave them interdiction letters.
“We as a state approached the management before now where an agreement was reached, but a week after they started victimizing the labour leaders in the hospital. That was why we issued the seven days ultimatum to withdraw the interdiction and all queries issued to the workers, but he (CMD) insisted that he would not abide by it.
“Now this morning the strike commenced and the workers were here on
peaceful protest. But instead of management listening to them, they
went and brought thugs who engaged the workers in a fight. They used an axe to break the head of the union leader here , who  is now being treated at  the hospital.”
Comrade Alozie Ejimadu,  Chairman, Senior Staff Association Federal Neuropshychiatric Hopsital, who also spoke on the development, said:  “We have a lot of issues in the hospital and the union now gave the
management 21 days ultimatum to pay up all their entitlements. Instead
of complying, what they did was to start intimidating the leaders of
the union, some they gave interdiction, some they gave demotion.
“So we contacted the state JUHESU and they met with the management two weeks ago, which promised that they would look into it. But no sooner had they left than the management started with more punitive measures on the labour leaders. So we declared a strike.
“This morning we were doing our thing peacefully, then one Mr. Ndu an
agent of our Medical Director and a teacher in the school of nursing
came with his thugs and started fighting the union. They hit our
chairman with an axe. The police came and the DPO of New haven started
shooting at us, ignoring the Area Commander who is on ground because
of his pecuniary interest. ‘
Onwukwe, who was away from the hospital at the time of the protest, told newsmen on phone that he was informed of the protest by the workers, explaining that all the demands made by the workers had been met by the management and wondered why  few members of the workers’ union should declare indefinite strike.
He said that after the reported violence in the hospital, the situation had been brought under control. “We are in control of the situation and there is no cause for alarm,” said Onwukwe, who claimed to be on tour.

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