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This led to a series of mass actions to press for the judicious use of funds in the health facility and ensured transparent process of investigation of the allegations, including an occupation of the Federal Ministry of Health’s headquarters at Abuja, on 26 January.
For almost two years, health sector unions faced stiff opposition from officials of the ministry of health, as they established a case of wanton corruption as “business as usual” in the FMC, under the Medical Director, Dr Uwakwem’s, watch.
The response of the ministry of health was to deny any financial wrongdoing on the part of the medical director. Rather it stressed the workers’ opposition to Dr Uwakwem’s introduction of Public Private Partnerships in the Centre, supposedly “to entrench transparency and accountability.” But what it failed to grasp is that PPPs are often related to corruption. The situation at FMC Owerri is only one more example confirming this.
Based on the whistleblowing efforts of the unions, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) conducted its independent investigations. Based on its findings, it arraigned Dr Uwakwem before the High Court on 11 October 2016, having established a prima facie case of corruption against her.
It is rather strange that the ministry of health reinstated her, with brute force, using the police. The trade unions have pointed out that there is more to this than meets the eye. They earlier alleged that Dr Uwakwem appeared to have collaborated with senior officials in the ministry to successfully misappropriate monies budgeted for the Centre. The PPP she promoted, like many a PPPs, was also a conduit pipe for diversion of much-needed public resources to private ends.
When resources meant for health services are diverted into private pockets, the adverse impact on millions of the most vulnerable people is horrendous. Resources that could otherwise have been used to employ health workers, procure drugs and provide much needed health care services are lost to a few greedy persons. Ironically, this self-serving development is then used to justify the introduction of PPPs, which amount to furthering corruption and subsidising private profits with public funds.
As a principle, PSI stands against corruption in all its ramifications. It is especially condemnable when it appears that institutions that should stand as safeguards against such nefarious actions are being manipulated. This action undermines the anti-corruption campaign of the federal government of Nigeria.
PSI salutes the courage of its affiliates and other trade unions in Nigeria for standing against this anomaly, and in defence of quality public services untainted by corrupt officials.
PSI has equally noted this as an added case in the long list of PPP failures, expanding the robust body of evidence that PPPs do not work, and rather further corruption.
With reports from Biobelemoye Josiah, Ojonugwa Ayegba (MHWUN) and Samson Eze (NANNM)