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Health Minister, Isaac Adewole
Health Minister, Isaac Adewole

FMC Owerri: The Imperatives Of Justice

Ifeanyi Maduako

The crises bedeviling the Federal Medical Centre, (FMC) Owerri have festered for over a year now. The gladiators are: the suspended Chief Medical Director (CMD) Dr. (Mrs.) Angela Uwakwem on the one hand and some of the Directors and the staffers on the other hand. I had written two previous articles, all in a bid to broker truce but it seems both gladiators are digging deep in their trenches instead of coming to a round table for reconciliation rather than this war of attrition. Recently, there has been a series of write-ups and articles by concerned citizens who are not employees of the health centre.

Regrettably, most of these write-ups bordered on inanities and inconsequentialities. These write-ups sounded puerile and infantile. They were attacking the Interim Management Committee (IMC) in a most despicable manner. These people should have realized that you do not inflame further passion in a conflagration. You do not stoke and fan the embers of acrimony, hatred and distrust between the Interim Management Committee and the suspended CMD Dr. (Mrs.) Uwakwem by accusing the IMC of gross incompetence and other sundry allegations. In a situation like this, you apply a conciliatory approach in order to calm frayed nerves on both sides and not calling the Interim Management Committee unprintable names to please the other side. That is by the way.

As I said earlier, I had written two previous articles before now since this imbroglio ensued in defense of Dr. (Mrs.) Angela Uwakwem. I do not know the woman from Adam but injustice to one is injustice to all. In an unjust society, silence is a crime. Dr. Uwakwem was accused by the staffers of devious activities and high handedness. The Federal Ministry of Health, which is supervising Ministry of all Federal Medical Centres in Nigeria, set up an Investigative or Judicial Panel of Inquiry to probe the allegations. The woman was eased out of the management of the Centre so as not to interfere with the investigation. An Interim Management Committee was set up to run the affairs of the Centre for a period of six (6) months.

Now the Investigating Panel has concluded its work and said to have exonerated, cleared and acquitted the woman of all charges leveled against her. And the two Ministers in the Ministry have subsequently acted on the findings of the Investigative Panel by ordering her reinstatement. It, therefore, beggars belief that the staffers are insisting that the suspended CMD must never return to Centre or they would down tools again. As I wrote in my last article last year, are the workers or staffers lords unto themselves now? Where else had this ever happened that the workers who are employees of an organization or ministry set the standards or rules of engagement of the place? Where else had workers become the bosses dictating the conditions of services they would render? A bad precedent must never be set in that Centre because what is in the womb of time and tomorrow, nobody knows.

If the staffers are given the latitude to dictate the pace and conditions of services they render, I wager, that henceforth, future CMDs must dance to their tunes otherwise, they will not know peace. Do you still remember Ms. Arunma Oteh? She is now the Vice President (Africa) and Treasurer of World Bank. Before her present post, she was appointed the Director-General of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2009. She had a very troubled and hectic time as DG of SEC. in 2012, the House of Representatives decided to probe her and her commission. The Committee on SEC headed by Hon. Heman Hemba invited her for questioning.  The Committee, especially its Chairman, Heman Hemba was very antagonistic to her. Nigerians did not know that Ms. Arunma Oteh and most of her Directors were working at cross purposes. When the Directors accompanied her to the Committee’s hearing room, albeit perfunctorily the whole world was stunned when the Directors in the presence of live cameras revolted against her and urged the Committee to do whatever they liked with her. It was later discovered that Ms. Arunma Oteh’s policies in the agency (SEC) were not allowing the workers to do what they were doing before her arrival. It was discovered that she introduced a far reaching policies which changed SEC for the better thereby helping the economy of the country to grow but the workers grumbled.

So, when the Committee on SEC of the House of Representatives had issues with her, most of the Directors and Staffers rejoiced that finally she was being dealt with. Ms. Arunma Oteh was suspended by President Goodluck Jonathan for a period of over 6 months for the Panel of Inquiry to probe her activities at the SEC. After the probe, the Panel of Inquiry cleared her of all misdemeanors and gave her a sound acquitted. The President invited her into his office and asked her if she could cope with the hostile Directors and Staffers at SEC in the event she was recalled. She answered in the affirmative. And she was recalled. She worked with the hostile Directors and Staffers until her five-year tenure expired on 2014. I exhumed Arunma Oteh’s narrative because it’s similar with the present predicament of Dr. Uwakwem.

If the Panel has cleared Uwakwem, the staffers and management have no right to stop her reinstatement. This woman is a civil servant who should leave with a clean record in order to be entitled for pension and gratuity. I also learnt that her tenure expires in 2017.  I call on the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Health, Hon. Chike Okafor to step into this matter once again the same way he brought his kinsman, Professor Ndu Ekeh, who is the Chairman of the Interim Management Committee for peaceful resolution of this impasse. The staffers must not allow personal hatred to becloud their sense of reasoning. On her side, she must sign an undertaking not to victimize any staff whenever she returns to the Centre. The more the gladiators fight, the more the death toll rises.


*Maduako, a public policy analyst, wrote in from Owerri


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