By Yinka Salaam
Unless urgent steps are taken, a major religious crisis may be brewing at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex as the Director of Nursing and the Chief Medical Director reportedly harassed and humiliated trousers-wearing hijab nurses, warning them to either remove their trousers or risk sack.
In what appeared to be a concerted and a calculated attempt to tactically ‘derobe’ the few Muslim nurses in the complex, the Director of Nursing, Mr Victor Onini on Monday, October 29 reportedly queried some nurses for putting on trousers – a part of their corporate dressing.
Onini consequently pushed further by asking them to remove the usual trousers, living them with only the jumpy gowns.
Apparently working under the ‘mandate’ of the Director of Nursing, it was gathered that the nurses were later chased out of the ward by the Chief Medical Doctor (CMD) Prof. Victor Adebayo Adetiloye who gave serious warning to the affected nurses to stop wearing the trousers or risk being relieved of their duties.
Efforts to reach the nurses concerned to know how they feel about the latest development proved abortive as they have subsequently declined to respond to calls and messages. Our source alleged that the Muslim community was said to have passed a strong message during the Friday services that non of her members should speak to the press, as the matter was receiving necessary attention.
However, a reliable source in the Complex indicates that the sudden ‘gang-up’ against the trousers was orchestrated and premediated by major stakeholders, beyond the Director/HOD Nursing and the CMD.
According to reports, the whole drama actually started on the preceding Friday when the sectional head attached to the Gynaecology ward saw Nurse Nimot Olaleye and asked her why she was putting on trousers. She replied that, it’s one of the options in the circular prescribed by the Nursing Council. The sectoral head then asked her to go and remove it, Olaleye ran to the mosque and told the Imam and a Brothers she meet there.
Surprisingly, the lady was ordered by the Imam to comply by removing her trousers and asked her return to her ward. Imam however said he would discuss with other members of the Muslim community to determine the next line of action.
On Monday afternoon, the same Nurse Olaleye was called by the HOD (Director of Nursing) who told her to remove the trousers.
Feeling embarrassed, confused and bewildered, Olaleye again went straight to the mosque to inform the Muslim Community. The leadership similarly told her to comply and then get back to work while they engage the authorities to resolve the issue.
“After waiting for a while for the return of Olaleye, the HOD went straight to her ward (Gynae ward) where he met another Nurse Aminat Alimi who also wore trousers. This probably made the HOD furious and went back to call the CMD who collaborated with him to embarrass Nurse Alimi by ordering her to remove her trousers,” a source said.
A nurse who witnessed the humiliation but who preferred to speak under the condition of anonymity said.
“Although, I am not a Muslim, but what I witnessed was indeed a completely embarrassing situation. We were initially surprised when the Director of Nursing asked the Muslim nurses to remove their trousers, leaving them with jumpy gowns. You know because they wear trousers, the length of the gown may not necessarily be of major concern, unlike some of us who do not wear the combination of gown and trousers. But the most embarrassing aspect of it was when the CMD disgraced and walked the nurses out of the ward in the presence of the patients.
“As a nurse myself, I felt disgraced, demeaned and belittled. It is inhuman. How can senior colleagues in the hospital do that to a professional colleague. Nurses are professionals and must be respected. More so, what the CMD, Prof Adetiloye did was illegal, unprofessional and wicked. After all, the dressing (gown and trousers) are approved by the Nursing Council”, she said.
Another nurse who witnessed the occasion but who also preferred anonymity because she was not authorized to speak could not comprehend why the senior colleagues who are supposed to be the custodians of the rules and regulations guiding the nursing profession turned out to be the very ones working against them. She said, “It is in our Code of Conduct that we can put on trousers and the nurse gown but we were surprised when we heard nurses were called by the HOD to see him in the office and when they got to his office, he ordered them to remove their trousers or else, they will be fired.”
The nurse explained that the mode of dressing was backed by the policy of the Nursing Council of Nigeria, which states that nurses could wear either a nurse cap or a shoulder length hijab with trousers.
She expressed surprise that the Director of Nursing insisted that, nurses are only permitted to wear a gown and a small hijab while trousers are outlawed.
Nursing & Midwifery Council circular
Interestingly, the stance of the Director, School of Nursing and the Chief Medical Director contravenes the provisions of a circular from the Nursing & Midwifery Council of Nigeria to the hospital authorities signed by the Secretary General, P.N Ndatsu, copied and sent to all the Directors of Nursing, their Deputies, the Chief Medical Directors, Chief Executives and Principal, dated 11th February, 2002 with reference number N&MCN/CMF/721/1/3.
Section 2, subsection b(III) of the circular further, prescribes that the nurses are permitted to wear trousers and a gown with long sleeves.
In a response to the Osun Defender reporter on his contradictory stance to the position of the Nursing Code on dressing, the HOD insisted, “This is a price of leadership, I will not join issues with people who want to create mistrust in the system, this is misinformation. There is a uniform policy in OAUTHC handed down by the uniform committee, Muslim community cannot micromanage the department of nursing for us, the uniform in use is a product of collective bargaining since 2014, period.
Hope for peace and reconciliation rises
In a frantic effort to resolve the crisis the management of OAUTHC met with the Muslim community and the leadership of the Nursing Department and other stakeholders on Friday.
Report has it that, while both parties agreed to sheath their swords, the nurses are still denied their rights and this situation will remain until few days time when another meeting will be held with the necessary stakeholders at the instance of the Director.
The meeting is expected to finally resolve the issue.
Perhaps, in the same spirit of reconciliation, when contacted on phone on his actions and the sack threat handed over to the nurses, the CMD , Dr Adetiloye who was not at the emergency meeting on Friday also raised the hope that there may eventually be light at the end of the tunnel.
“No one can sack or threaten any nurse for putting on trousers. Everything has it’s own protocol and standard. Even me, I can’t just sack any nurse. I don’t have anything to say on this issue. There is a committee in charge of the dress code in OAUTHC and they had informed the nurses about the dressing code that is recommended on them. I don’t have anything to say than this, I am in Abuja for official assignment…,” he said
Reports at the meeting indicated that the Management has agreed that the nurses are free to dress as specified in the circular, and shall be backed by an internal circular, but the authorities sought for more time to consult widely to ensure an enduring resolution of the crisis. Hence, the need for the November 12th meeting where the final resolution of the crisis is expected.
Until then, the female nurses are to obey the HOD’s order.
When contacted, the Chairman, OAUTCH, Prof Fatihu Arogundade said the institution has agreed to settle the issue amicably as a family affairs. He gave assurance that, “going by the progress made so far, there should be no cause for alarm,” he said.
However, feelers are that the hierarchy of the Muslim Community aren’t prepared to compromise their constitutionally guaranteed rights and are spoiling for a real show down, should the authorities decide to mitigate their rights and privileges. A member of the Muslim Community said, “If the nursing dress code is guaranteed in the constitution, approved by the Nursing Council and has been in practice for three years, no one should attempt to violate such right or infringe on such freedom.
All eyes are on OAUTCH as the aggrieved persons, both from within and outside the institution are holding on to their arsenal, waiting anxiously for the outcome of the November 12th meeting.