Strikes in Nigeria: playing with fate….


Since we started out sharing our views on health in the Nigerian polity, one issue has bothered and challenged us….Why does health, so important to all of us …have so little political capital in Nigeria?

A bit of lip service is paid here and there…but not more than that. Can you imagine what the outrage would be if the banking sector is paralysed? if the telecommunications systems went off? if all the roads in the country were blocked? the airports were closed… I suspect there would be an uproar…

So when almost the entire public health care delivery system in Nigeria is paralysed by strikes…why is there no reaction? How can we normalise so much? Medical care is the most essential of all the essential services…so how can we as a society tolerate so much?

Why do health care professionals find it so easy to strike…

Why does it take a strike to force the government to engage…

Why do the people find it so easy to look away…


Find below a few reports…but maybe our problems are too many and too large to bother with “health”and in the wake of the bombing of the Atlas Cove, the release of Henry Okah and Obama’s speech…you would hardly notice…until it is your own child that you need to take to hospital!

1. Daily Trust: The Federal Medical Center (FMC)Gombe has been forced to discharge all patients on admission following the industrial action embarked upon by the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Mid-wife and National Association of Medical and Health Workers.

2. Daily Trust: The House of Representatives yesterday mandated its committees on Health and Legislative Compliance to investigate the death of many Nigerians at the National Hospital, Abuja due to the strike being embarked upon by the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives.

3. Thisday: Following the multiple industrial unrest that has gripped three key sectors of the Nigerian economy namely, education, health and information, the House of Representatives yesterday summoned the ministers in charge of education, health and information and communication, Dr. Sam Egwu, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin and Professor Dora Akunyili.

4. Next: The University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan on Friday July 10 rejected new patients and is hurriedly discharging in-patients, as its nurses and non-academic staff embark on strike.

5. The Sun: Daily Sun visit to the hospital on Friday and Saturday revealed that virtually all the wards at Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex (OAUTHC), Ile Ife were empty while the hospital was unable to admit new patients who came to the hospital oblivious that the strike persisted.

6. The Guardian: Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, is pleading with the doctors not to go on strike because there will be needless loss of lives.

My final thesis on this is that NIGERIANS are willing to tighten their belts and sacrifice for our country; our doctors will work for peanuts and our teachers will teach for less….

BUT BUT…they will NO LONGER DO THIS if our “LEADERS” do not do the same!

Our representatives in parliament take home millions of dollars and drive around in jeeps with tinted screens, local government chairmen move around with a retinue of aides that will make the Mayor of London jealous and while Universities are closed, OUR Minister for Education is alleged to have spent 120 Million Niara on a 25th Wedding Party

Me says…pay the teachers and doctors…

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

Discussion5 Comments

  1. Very well written!
    The crux of the matter is that unless the flagrant and open display of wealth by our leaders is stopped and the money utilised for the purposes for which they have been earmarked, the strikes will continue! No longer will we work like elephants and share our lunch with the ants! Enough is enough!

  2. Another great piece, I just get sickened (and angry) each time I read such pieces as it makes us Nigerians seem like such a hopeless nation. If this was some small developing country like Malawi (no offence to any Malawians, you would understand why they go on strike as their government cannot pay them, but this is nigeria where someone can spend about half a million pounds on a party. How many doctor’s salaries is that. These government officials have blood on their hands that is all I can say. I must also add that if this was a more forward thinking country, the “Honorable” Minister of Health would have cleared his desk by now….keep up the good work…..

  3. Oh boy, the ways wey things dey go. Hehn! Mend own dey one side, strike own dey one side, sick presido dey anoda side, David mark own, na auto ticket, petrol dey go up, e be laik say this country dey tanda on top of the verge of anarchy. Na wahala be dis o!

  4. Dear NHW friends and colleagues,

    Thank you for the news though sad but challenging. Individuals and groups are being provoked to take positive actions within their God-given opportunity.

    I can imagine the negative impact the strikes will make to the already appallingly high maternal mortality in Nigeria – over 1000/100,000 as compared to 10/100,000 in UK. I hope that the Nigeria Health Watch will ignite massive people’s demonstrations in defence of maternal and child health in particular.

    We must keep on to challenge our Government and ourselves to do what other countries have done to prevent shameful and needless deaths of women and children. We professionals must look for other means to to fight to save lives instead of strike! Strike action by health workers in Nigeria only leads to more untimely deaths particularly that of those who are vulnerable such as pregnant women and children. It is an evil wind that we must stop one way or another.

    Thank you for the good job that you are doing.

    Thomas Odejide

  5. I note the various comment all well written. I must praise the administrators of Nigerian Health Watch for a great job well done, keep it up, all well meaning Nigerians will support you.

    Some people worry that vulnerable people will die and suggest that strike is evil. Inasmuch as this will bring hardship, I believe this is the type of thing Nigeria needs to stimulate the electorate to wake up from slumber and claim their right.

    It is only in Nigeria that a politician ceases to know his electorate once elected the first time. He takes his time to steal so much money to buy him a second term at all cost so he does not need the people anymore.

    The people messing every thing in this great country including healthcare services are the same people that crawl away to places as India and South Africa to purchase healthcare when they need it.

    If the suffering 95% of Nigerians feel they are unable to confront the 5% oppressing them for fear of dying, then they can as well chose to die of no Medicare occasioned by these feudal.

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