The peaceful pro-test 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 allegedly invited by the hospital’s management attacked the workers with axes and other dangerous weapons.
The Chairman of the Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU, Mr. Alozie Ejimmadu, sustained injuries on the 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 who was armed with a sharp axe, allegedly inflicted on the union leader a deep cut on the head at the gate of the hospital where the union leader 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 into 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 service would be rendered during the period of the strike. Some of their placards read: “Pay us our teaching allowance, 2014/2015 increment allowance”, “Give us our due promotions and conversions”, “Our President listen to our cries, 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 the 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. 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 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.”
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