The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has said that contrary to the alleged propaganda by the striking members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) no doctor or health worker in Nigeria was being owed monthly salary.
The Minister stated this at the opening of the meeting of the Presidential Committee on Salaries with the leadership of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) today, in Abuja.
He said “the fumes from the propaganda machine of NARD were obfuscating the reality of the Federal Government’s efforts to re-position the health sector.
“NARD goes about telling Nigerians that government is owing them salaries and that government is not taking the problems in the health sector serious. But this is not true. It is incorrect.
“No doctor, nurse, pharmacist or any other health worker including the driver is owed monthly salary. The government pays as and when due.
“The truth is that NARD doctors fail to tell Nigerians that their colleagues who are owed salaries are the ones illegally recruited and were, therefore, neither captured by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation nor was their payments provided for by the Budget Office of the Federation.
“Monthly salaries are done as and when due for those legitimately employed by the Federal Government but not to those illegally employed and who need their appointments regularized and captured in the finances of government for payment. This takes a process which is not accomplished overnight.”
Ngige referred to the presidential waiver for employment into the critical Health and Defence Ministries in view of the general embargo on employment and assured that doctors illegally recruited would have their service regularized in due course.
The Minister however said that money which the Federal Government owes few doctors and other workers was the 2020 COVID-19 allowance, besides the arrears of the consequential adjustment of the National Minimum Wage and skipping allowance which cut across other sectors. He said work was in progress to clear this.
He blamed the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and JOHESU for bringing segregation in the negotiation for the new hazard allowance which the Federal Government already budgeted the sum of N37.5 billion for.
“We started joint negotiation to round off discussion and implement new hazard allowance as early as possible so as to stave off the current wolf-crying by doctors. They brought in segregation and couldn’t agree with JOHESU and both now want separate negotiations.
“Why then blame government and make it an issue to strike for.”
In his speech the Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora said it was such a wrong time to go on strike, noting that despite financial constraints, government was committed to payment of salaries of doctors and health workers
The Minister of State for Finance, Budget and Planning, Clement Agba rued the expanding budgetary expenditure of government even as revenue continues to dwindle.
He added that the government was doing its best and committed to workers welfare but certainly won’t continue to borrow to pay salaries.
President of JOHESU, Josiah Biobelemonye said his union was “the patient dog of the health sector” and pressed for the swift tackling of the challenges facing its members, to avoid forcing them to strike.