SWL condemns the sack of two nurses by the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH) and demands their immediate reinstatement. The victimised nurses are Ovwiomodiowho Tega Prince and Aishat Olufunke Ajibola. Tega was sacked in September for participation in a strike called by the NLC and NANNM. And the appointment of Aisha, who is treasurer of the local branch of the nurses’ union – NANNM, was terminated on 25th November for speaking about Tega’s illegitimate strike on a radio programme.
The radio programme where Aisha Ajibola spoke in defence of her professional colleague and fellow union member was on the Nightingale Radio. This was in the year nurses and the world marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the profession’s founding figure. This was in a year when nurses were on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic response, putting their lives and safety at risk.
This was a year which the World Health Organization declared as “International Year of the Nurse and Midwife” and issued the first ever global “State of Nursing Report”. This report stressed not only the need for the recruitment of more nurses – and not their sacks for spurious reasons. It also drew attention to the need for employers to respect nurses’ freedom of association, voice, and trade union rights.
The authoritarian dismissal of Ovwiomodiowho Tega and Aishat Ajibola would have been unacceptable at any time. It violated their fundamental human and labour rights. But for the OOUTH to have done this in 2020, the “International Year of the Nurse” and in the midst of a pandemic, when nurses were being celebrated across the world and encouraged to speak out is simply put, appalling.
But the response of the OOUTH branch of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives is even more shocking. Instead of rising to the defence of the union’s members, the branch leadership became spokespersons for the management, against the unjustly sacked workers.
In a 21st December statement signed by Y.O. Ogundein and D.A. Rasaki, chair and secretary of the branch respectively, they said “the issues of the sack (sic) nurses are better resolved through dialogue and not confrontation”.
This was after condemning rank-and-file nurses who had organised a protest demanding the reinstatement of both nurses a few days earlier, for supposed “defamation of character of the principal officers of OOUTH management” who had sacked the union’s members!
SWL commends these gallant rank-and-file nurses, dubbed the “Elegant Nurses”. Only activism from below in the workplace can ensure workers’ victory in the struggle for labour rights and a better society. We recall how nurses protests in several states last year were equally condemned by the leaderships of the union in these states. But their actions opened the gateway for a wave of strikes in the health sector which won concessions for nurses and other categories of health workers.
We call for support from the working-class movement across the country and all over the world to fight for justice for Prince Tega and Aisha Ajibola. They must be reinstated unconditionally, with dispatch, and compensation for the trauma they have been caused. An injury to one is an injury to all.
by Muda OGIDAN