My Distaste For Professionals’ Association Or Trade Union In Nigeria By A. S. M. Jimoh
As a graduate of engineering, I have never had the interest of being a member of my professional body. Over time, I have scrutinized many professionals’ associations and their conduct, what I came up with is that trade unions in Nigeria are formed to promote misconduct among their members. Trade union or professionals’ Association is also a money making venture for its officials. That is why people spend fortune or even kill to become the leader of these bodies in Nigeria. From the motor park union of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) or Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) to the professional bodies of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) or Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), it is same goal: to protect the interest of our members even if such a member is a criminal.
While I am not here to convince anyone to drop out from being a member of professional body or trade union, but I am going to demonstrate with specific events that have further alienate me from joining any Nigeria professional association.
In 2003, a group of nurse beat an old female patient at Okene General Hospital, hauled her from her hospital bed to detention at the police station. Her crime? Her grown up son had refused to participate in a so-called sanitation exercise organized by the hospital. The case got to the court as they insisted on teaching the woman and her son a lesson of life. On the day of the court proceeding, the umbrella body of nurse and midwives, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANMW) shut down hospitals cross local governments to attend the proceeding. Nurses who were supposed to be at duty post abandoned patients to show solidarity with a wicked colleague. Is this what trade union is all about? Instead of NANMW to sanction their members who proliferate pharmaceutical stores selling substandard drugs, they rather defend the wicked conduct of their members.
Fast forward to February 2016, a certain Ricky Tarfa (SAN) was charged by the Nigeria anti-corruption agency for obstruction of justice and for being a bribe carrier within the judicial circle. Instead of his professional body members, SAN, the very people who are to be more schooled in law, to wit, discipline and morality, to carry out an in-house investigation to ascertain the fact of the case, they rather trooped to the court to intimidate the judge and subtly obstructing justice, the very crime their colleague is being charged with. It leaves you with no hope when people who are supposed to be the personification of justice now congregate to pervert it in the guise of solidarity with a professional colleague charge in criminal suit. Well, more revelations coming out are that there are more Ricky Tarfas among SAN than there are the like of Femi Falana. Alas! Who our SANs are have been revealed.
Today, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) goes on strike at every slightest provocation while closing eye to its members who divert public hospital equipment to their privately owned clinics. Likewise, I have not noticed where the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) punishes a member for wrong design, violation of design, breach of safety rules, poor execution of work or/and substandard production. The paramount interest of this body is the membership due even if such due are paid through blood money.
Periodically, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU’s) member go around university to give pass mark in accreditation of courses and department, only to turn around the next day accusing government for lack of facilities in the same university they had accredited the previous day. Universities offering computer studies are without computer laboratory, yet ASUU member accredit them in order to keep their members on the job.
When Bokoharam attacked the facilities of some newspaper publishers in Nigeria, they cried loud for the public to hear. Then they later received ten million naira each as ‘compensation’ through their professional body. This time the public never heard of it. Several communities have their lives destroyed by BokoHaram, newspapers association never deem it fit to campaign for the rehabilitation of such communities. If it is not our member, we cannot cut a deal.
I have heard of how a particular branch of All Nigeria Conference of Principal of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS) directed that all its members should build a personal house within one year of becoming a principal. How? Any means possible. In following this directive, admission into school become a racket, examination fees were being charged in absurd excess of the official fees, frivolous money such as prayer due, invigilators fees are being charged by principals, while also promoting examination practices.
Just two days ago, oil workers under the umbrella of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) went on a strike because the government restructured its owned Oil Company, the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC). According to government, the reorganization that saw the creations of seven units is to bring efficiency to the corporation, make it a profit-making outfit and reduce the waste and corruption which the NNPC has become. Then why are NUPENG and PENGASSAN opposing this? They were not carried along, they said. Whatever that means, the majority of the public know why they did what they do. In the last eight years, oil revenue was being looted left, right and center, but NUPENG and PENGASSAN were in a mute mode since it was trickling down to their members.
The idea of protecting the interest of members of trade union to the detriment of the generality of the public has crawled to the non-professional and unskilled labor unions. For instance, if you contract a carpenter or bricklayer in the starting phase of a job, you cannot later invite another carpenter or bricklayer in a subsequent phase even when you find a better deal in price and skill. Their motto is that the man who starts a job must end it. The job owner’s interest is not an interest.
Professional Associations are not just to protect the ‘interest’ of theirs members, but also to protect the society who patronize their service. Around 2009, I stumbled on a publication of two years earlier by nurses association in Canada. A section of that publication, running up to two pages, was on punishment meted out to erring members of the profession. One had her license either revoked or suspended for lengthy period for helping a patient buy a cigarette. Another had her license suspended for an offence as ‘little’ as borrowing money from a patient. One other was suspended for a year for delaying, even unintentionally, in giving out drug to a patient. In the case I cited above at the Okene general hospital, the patient had her drugs seized by the nurses for her son’s refusal to participate in the exercise.
When I think I have ethics, principle, moral and fear of God, I would often have the revulsion to subscribe to Nigeria Professional Association or Trade Union. Am I a saint? No. On a lighter note, but with all seriousness, my friends always say to me, “You will be forced to join once you want to practice or nothing for you in Nigeria.”
- S. M. Jimoh (email@example.com or @anehi2008 on twitter)
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