The staff of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have embarked on a nationwide indefinite strike over what they termed as maladministration, ineptitude, incompetence and inefficiency of the current Director General, Mustafha Maihaja.
The staff through the Chairman of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) of the agency, Justin Uche, disclosed that since assumption of office in April 2017, Mr Maihaja grounded major humanitarian and emergency response operations of NEMA offices across Nigeria.
The Abuja headquarters of the agency was shut down by the workers as they insisted that they would not return to work until the management of the agency granted their demands.
The strike followed several threats issued by workers of the agency to management over the grounding of its operation including the collapse of Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU), Emergency Response Vehicles, Air Ambulance and the Helicopter that cost the Federal Government of Nigeria over $100 million tax payers money to put in place.
The staff were seen with placards with inscriptions such as ‘Mustapha Maihaja must go’, ‘Maihaja is a Disaster to Disaster Management,’ ‘NEMA has no working tools,’ ‘Maihaja turns NEMA to personal property,’ ‘Mustapha, we are tired of Aluta, pay our claims or resign, enough is enough’.
Others read: ‘No hazard allowance, no life assurance cover’, ‘Who will die next’, “No promotion exercise’, ‘Give us training it is statutory’, ‘Maihaja is an electrician, we are humanitarian’.
The staff also complained about non-payment of their allowances, refusal to renew personnel life assurance, lack of training, non-payment of hazard allowances, Improper placement, promotion among other contentious issues.
They also condemned the reported refusal of NEMA boss to reinstate suspended senior officers as directed by the House of Represenatatives Committee on Disaster Management.
The union leaders said that despite several letters of threat issued in the past, the management had yet to respond positively to their demands, while the director general ignored their threats and travelled to Moscow.
Meanwhile in a letter from the union leaders addressed to NEMA management dated February 20 and signed by the NEMA unit chairman, Ibrahim Bello, which was received same day by the management, the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria warned the management of the consequences of non-implementation of the terms of agreement.
The letter noted among other issues mentioned above that the management has introduced a ‘divide and rule’ by using nepotism through the introduction of extra duties allowance which is paid only to those considered their loyalists.
According to the union, the development has further polarized the staff members and add up to their frustrations precipitating pent-up feelings capable of demoralizing them and their performance.
The letter also noted that the current exercise on emergency food intervention in the North East (EFINE) staff claims (DTA) were short-changed after spending a good number of days in the field waiting for relief materials or could not finish distribution within the stipulated time frame.
The workers also lamented the office/working environment which were no longer conducive as it lacks enough lightening, non-functional air-conditioners, drinking water among others adding that the situation is even worse in zonal and operations offices across the country due to the insensitive posture of Mr Maihaja.
The management of the National Emergency Management Agency and union leaders met with the House of Representatives, where the warring parties agreed to the implementation of a peace agreement.
Workers of the agency had suspended a three-day warning strike after a public outcry greeted the development. It also took the intervention of the Labour and Employment Minister, Chris Ngige, for the workers to soft-pedal.
The House Committee on Disaster Preparedness, which also intervened in the industrial dispute, had summoned the Director-General of NEMA, Mustapha Maihaja, and the union leaders to an emergency meeting in Abuja.
The association also accused the management of the agency of failing to train its personnel as well as refusing to pay the duty tour allowance and other claims to deserving officers.
In response, the NEMA management said it was surprised to discover that the offices of the agency were shut down on Monday by the action of the staff union without any prior notice.
Reasons for the union action were later discovered to have arisen from issues that were already being addressed, the management said.
“For instance, the Group Life Insurance for the staff has already been approved. This is beside the personal accident insurance that is also being worked out to cover the staff in the course of their duties.
“It should be noted that current management initiated the process for a new condition of service for the staff which the Chairman of NEMA Governing Council has given a consent and even set up an Establishment Committee which is expected to come up with relevant recommendations. The committee has sat three times and received necessary briefings and would soon forward its report for consideration and approval by the council.
“While the management in efforts to resolve issues of outstanding claims inherited from the past administration, constituted a committee that has been verifying staff claims and payment process have commenced for those cleared.
“However, the issue of Emergency Responses Team allowances being canvassed by the union has no basis of approval from the salaries and wages commission. The management do not desire to engage in any illegality. This has been severally communicated to the staff.
“The management wishes to draw attention of the staff and stakeholders to note that the strike action embarked by the union is illegal and do not conform with any known labour law or norms. The management views the current action by union as deliberate attempt to sabotage the government.
“Therefore, the union is hereby advised to discontinue the strike action as the management is open for dialogue on any issues of concern to the staff.
“The management will continue to be resolute in its commitment to staff welfare and ensuring due process in the discharge of NEMA mandates.”