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Lagos Assembly Members At War Over Striking Doctors

Listen to article can confirm that it was a near brawl situation, Monday, when members of the Lagos State House of Assembly verbally assaulted themselves over the sack of more than 1000 striking doctors in the State.

The legislators were aroused when the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, announced that the State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, had issued letters of sack to the striking doctors.

The issue which resulted to an abusive session by some of the lawmakers aroused Hon. Bayo Oshinowo, Chairman, House Committee on Lands, to declare that his colleagues had attempted to make nonsense of the integrity of the House after his motion for nullification of the governor's plans were raised by him.  

The lawmakers had decided to wade into the crisis which is now over two weeks old after thousands of residents of the State Friday stopped the Speaker from gaining access into the Assembly complex in protest of the prolong industrial action that was taking a toll on the residents and resulting in the death of several people in the State.  

The Speaker however, constituted an ad-hoc Committee to mediate in the issue and put an end to the action of the doctors within the weekend.  

While presenting their findings to his colleagues, Deputy Speaker of the Assembly who chaired the ad-hoc Committee informed them that most of the agitations of the doctors were not enough for them to embark on an industrial action. He said the doctors complained about heavy taxes and that they wanted an upward review of their salaries. He also said the doctors wanted the amount paid as salary to the Registrar of the State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) to be equally paid to his counterparts in the General Hospitals in the State.  

He said after several hours of mediation, the Committee was able secure a promise from the State Government represented by the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Jide Idris, the Special Adviser to Governor Fashola on Taxation and some officials of the State Internal Revenue Board, that the doctors would not be penalised, victimised or even reprimanded for their action. However, securing the promise from the striking doctors under the Medical Guild was not possible as he said their leaders said they must get back to their colleagues before taking a decision.  

While these discussions were on, Speaker Ikuforiji called the attention of his colleagues to the information he received while the sitting was on notifying him of the sack of the doctors.  

"As I am talking to you now, I just heard that majority of the doctors have received their sack letters," he said and urged his colleagues to stop further deliberation on the issue till the House was clear with the reasons the State Governor took the decision.  

The statement provoked some of the members resulting in attacks and counter-attacks.  

In his view, Hon. Oshinowo and his supporters wanted the House to reprimand Governor Fashola for not respecting the House which had waded into the issue, saying that it smacked of disregard for the lawmakers, others thought the action of the Governor was long overdue.  

The Speaker of the House, who though agreed that the Governor should have taken the House into consideration while taking the action, put the blame for the aggravation on the striking doctors saying they had the opportunity to end their action. He also reminded his colleagues that the doctors, who were employees in the State, were gradually becoming thin gods who wanted to dictate to the State Government claiming that their behaviour had gone out of hand.  

Another lawmaker who is also a medical doctor, Hon. Razak Balogun, said though the striking doctors were his colleagues, they had beaten more than they could chew. According to him, in the last two years since the crisis began, the doctors had been on strike for a total number of six months and that they always got paid while they embarked on such strikes even though they use the same periods to work in their private hospitals.  

He told his colleagues not to be sentimental about the situation stressing that thought the government cannot just sack all the doctors as it is not possible to pick about 1, 000 doctors from the streets to work in government establishments, it was necessary that the government which was the employer curtail their excesses.  

Their arguments further provoked Hon. Oshinowo, who after raising his voice on his colleagues and spoke in un-parliamentary language almost called for the stepping down of all the principal officers, but stopped midway telling them that they would regret the decision they had taken not to reprimand the Governor.  

In annoyance, he asked his colleagues how many of them fought for the democracy they were currently enjoying informing them that he suffered and was thrown into jail for three years as part of those who fought the military.  

He told them that they were desecrating the importance of the legislature in government. He later stormed out of the chamber.  

The Speaker in his final submission told his colleagues that the leadership of the House would immediately spring into action and contact the Governor to know why he took the decision, but stressed that the Governor had tried in the past to put an end to the crisis but had been frustrated by the doctors.  

He said the House would investigate the entire issue and where there are genuine reasons to sack any of the doctors, approval would be granted by the House.  

Secretary of the Medical Guild, Idris Durojaiye, who confirmed the sack of his colleagues said the government sent the letters through Medical Directors of the hospitals and that the Medical Directors were given instruction to sign the letters on behalf of the government. learnt that the doctors have headed for court while planning to take other actions against the government that had constantly warned them that it would recruit new doctors if they did not change their decision.