The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has said that education cannot be funded by the government alone.
Ngige said this on Tuesday when he made an appearance on Channels TV’s Politics Today while responding to questions about the looming industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
“The state of education here is not anything to cheer about, I agree. The standard has fallen, I agree. But education cannot be funded by Government alone,” the minister said.
“I know that because I schooled here in Nigeria. I did my primary education, secondary and university here and I did my post-graduate outside the country. But I can tell you, in other climes education is not only done by government”.
ASUU President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, had on Monday issued a three-week ultimatum to the Federal Government to address all issues in the December 2020 Agreement.
He warned that should the government fail to implement the Memorandum of Action signed with ASUU prior to the suspension of the last industrial action, the union would be compelled to embark on another nationwide strike.
Some of the issues include unpaid allowances as well as the universities revitalisation fund.
But Ngige maintained that he has continued to do everything within his power to meet their demands.
“As Minister of Labour, I have even crossed my own territory. I have done extra-territorial jobs to make sure that we satisfy their members,” he said.
“They know I’m doing my best for them, I am the one talking to finance, education and the NUC”.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has congratulated Professor Charles Soludo of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) on his victory in the Anambra State governorship election.
Ngige, in a goodwill message on Wednesday, said the victory of the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the poll was well deserved.
“Ndi-Anambra have spoken with this resounding victory,” he said. “Having contested in 2010 with Soludo, who was then the PDP candidate and myself in CAN – an election in which I was ‘awarded’ the second position even though I won outright and Soludo third, I knew that with his tenacity of purpose and drive, he would one day make it to the seat of the Governor of Anambra State.
“It is a case in patience and endurance, an aspiration nurtured to serve the people with all his strength, I seriously believe. Ndi-Anambra I know, will hence, entertain no excuses.
“Much has been given, hence the expectation is very high. Knowing Soludo as I do, however, I have no doubt that our people have made an excellent choice by voting him.”
The minister also congratulated the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for conducting a free, fair, and credible election, even with the initial hiccups posed by the malfunctioning of the Biometric Voters’ Accreditation (BVAS) system in some places.
According to him, an opportunity has been offered to INEC to brace up to the challenges posed by the Anambra election, especially with the debut of the BVAS technology for more credible, free, and fair elections in the future.
“At this auspicious juncture, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari deserves a glowing national tribute,” said Ngige. “I put on record, that Mr President had on three different occasions, assured through me, that the Anambra governorship election would be free and fair.
“The last of such occasion being on October 14, 2021, when I conveyed the fear and the consternation of the religious leaders, elder statesmen, and traditional rulers of Anambra State, more especially that of his friend, the Archbishop of the Onitsha Metropolitan Province, His Grace, Dr. Valerian Okeke to him in his office.
“Not only did the President ensure a level playing field for all the political parties, he directed all the security agencies to deploy into Anambra to protect and secure voters and electoral workers. A promise kept!”
Ngige added, “Worthy of commendation in this direction, is the professionalism exhibited by the security agencies – the army, police, DSS and the civil defence during the exercise, in compliance with the wish of the President for the good people of Anambra State.
“The election has come and gone, and it is very free, fair, and credible. Mr President has indeed lived true to his assurances to Ndi-Anambra and by this very fact, demonstrated once again that he is no enemy to Ndi-Igbo. What a better value to democracy, than a legacy of credible elections, in which the will of the people reigns supreme. May we, therefore, hail this true democrat!”
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has said that contrary to what he described as propaganda by the striking members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), no doctor or health worker in Nigeria is owed their monthly salary.
The minister said this on Tuesday at the opening of the meeting of the Presidential Committee on Salaries with the leadership of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) in Abuja.
According to him, 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. Government pays as and when due,” Ngige was quoted as saying in a statement by the Ministry’s Deputy Director Press and Public Relations, Charles Akpan.
“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 were 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.”
Speaking further, the minister 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 regularised in due course.
He, however, said that the money which the Federal Government owed 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.
According to him, 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 N37.5b 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 the 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 remains committed to payment of salaries of doctors and health workers.
On his part, the Minister of State for Finance, Budget and Planning, Clement Agba, regretted the expanding budgetary expenditure of government even as revenue continues to dwindle.
He said government was doing its best and remained 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.
As of the time of filing this report, the meeting was still ongoing.
“So, this is where we are with them and we are saying that even if anybody cares to put it in any agreement, that clause will be void ab initio because it’s against the law of the land and we will not, as a government, succumb to undue arm twisting and then go and sign that.”
The Minister explained that some workers had lost their pay during previous strikes (under the “no work, no pay” rule) and the same punishment will be meted out to the striking doctors if they refuse to resume.
“Other workers have lost their pay during strikes; the Joint Health Systems Union (JOHESU), they lost their pay in 2018 when they went on four months strike; they lost about two or three months’ pay when the no-work, no-pay rule was invoked,” the minister said, adding that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suffered the same fate last year.
“Nobody paid them (ASUU) anything for six months and it was during COVID-19. So, we can handle things administratively, but nobody should arm-twist,” he said.
The Minister also revealed that a list of 8,000 doctors to benefit from the Medical Residency Training Fund is being considered by the government.
FG Vs NARD: Lingering Tussle
The lingering tussle between the Nigerian government and NARD has been on since July 31 when the doctors went on strike to press home their demands.
Despite a series of meetings between the Federal Government and the striking doctors, no resolution has been reached.
While the Federal Government insists that the demands of the doctors have been met, the doctors insist otherwise.
Some of the issues raised by the medical practitioners include the immediate payment of all salaries owed to all house officers, including March salaries (regardless of quota system) before the end of business on March 31.
They are also asking for an upward review of the hazard allowance to 50 per cent of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers and payment of the outstanding COVID-19 inducement allowance, especially in state-owned-tertiary institutions.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had in the wake of the disagreements threatened to invoke the “no-work, no pay” rule on NARD.
But the NMA has thrown its weight behind the striking doctors and other health workers.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, has disclosed that the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has waded into the industrial face-off between the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and the Federal Government.
The labour minister made the disclosure on Thursday after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State house.
He equally disclosed that he would be leading a Federal Government delegation to meet all the critical stakeholders in the medical sector tomorrow in Abuja.
Briefing state house correspondents after the meeting with the President, the Minister said the government would go ahead to invoke the ‘no work, no pay’ charter on the striking doctors, describing the NARD’s resumed strike as illegal and injurious to the nation at a time the country was battling with the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
He added that it is illegal for the doctors to have embarked on a strike without issuing adequate notice to the government.
He also dismissed NARD’s claims that it merely resumed a suspended strike.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday felicitated with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige as the latter turned 69.
In a goodwill message signed by Presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina, the President described Ngige as a patriot.
“The President joins the medical profession, labour community, the legislature, where the celebrant served as Senator, and people of Anambra State, whom he served as Governor, to salute Dr Ngige for his selfless stewardship to community, state, country and humanity, wishing him greater health, strength and sound mind,” Adesina’s statement said.
“As he interfaces between government and organized labour, working for industrial harmony, President Buhari wishes the Minister well in all his endeavours.”
Ngige is at the forefront of the Federal Government’s engagement with striking resident doctors.
On Friday, the Minister threatened to replace striking doctors if they do not resume work by Monday.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has rated medical treatment in Nigeria as “fairly okay”.
Although he is not outrightly against seeking medical attention abroad, the minister believes it is not out of place for Nigerians to stay back and get treated in the country.
“What are you going abroad to do, the expertise is here (in Nigeria),” the minister said on Friday in an interview with Channels Television.
He had featured as a guest on Politics Today where he announced that the Federal Government would enforce the ‘No Work, No Pay’ policy for resident doctors who have been on strike since Monday.
“Plenty of billions has gone into health. For me, if you have the means and you want to do a second opinion abroad, why not? It is permitted.
“I have my daughter (and son) here, I deal with them. Not that any time I want to do medical check-up abroad I don’t do that, I do that.”
Over the years, many Nigerians – including the President and other top public office holders – seek medical attention abroad.
While many have condemned the practice, others asked the authorities to invest in the health sector and upgrade the nation’s medical facilities to world standard to discourage medical trips abroad.
Comparing the level Nigeria has attained in the field of medical science to other countries, Ngige admitted that the nation still lacked some advancements.
According to him, the Federal Government has performed its functions well to have the health sector on the concurrent list.
Buhari In London
The minister thinks the government deserves to be commended considering the nation’s political situation and others.
“On an average note, medical treatment here is fairly okay as far as I am concerned,” said Ngige who is also a medical doctor.
“I use the National Hospital (in Abuja), my card is there; I use the State House clinic for my eyes; I use another private hospital here.”
Members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) went on an indefinite strike over irregularities in the payment of salaries to house officers, among other issues.
They also accused the government of failing to fulfill its promise to members of the association who died of COVID-19 in the line of duty.
The industrial action, which entered its fifth day on Friday, has crippled activities and left patients stranded in many government-owned hospitals in the country.
It commenced a week after President Muhammadu Buhari left Nigeria for the United Kingdom where he participated in the Global Education Summit on Financing Global Partnership for Education (GPE) 2021-2025.
Although the summit had ended, the Presidency said the Nigerian leader would remain in London for an earlier scheduled medical check-up.
He is expected back in the country by the second week of August.
The Nigeria Labour Congress has suspended its five days warning strike in Kaduna State.
Announcing the suspension, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba said the decision is to honour the invitation of the Federal Government on Thursday to mediate in the dispute between labour and the Kaduna State Government.
Earlier today, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige waded into the ongoing face-off between the Kaduna State government and labour unions by inviting both parties to a reconciliation meeting.
The meeting scheduled to hold at the Ministry of Labour and Employment in the Federal Secretariat, Abuja is to be attended by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El Rufai and top officials of the State; s well as the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba and top NLC leaders.
Ngige had directed the two parties to maintain the status quo ante bellum pending the resolution of the issues in contention.
“I am therefore constrained in the exercise of my powers as the Minister of Labour and Employment, under the Trade Disputes Act, CAP. T8, Laws of Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004; to invite you and your top officials to the emergency trade dispute conciliation meeting,” he said.
Ngige’s intervention comes three days after the NLC started a protest following the disengagement of over seven thousand civil servants at the state and local governments by the Kaduna State government.
The strike has paralysed critical sectors of the economy in the state and the state governor Nasir El-Rufai in reaction declared the NLC Chairman and other leaders wanted for economic sabotage and attacks on public infrastructure in Kaduna State under the Miscellaneous Offences Act.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has faulted governors yet to pay the new minimum wage to workers in their states.
Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, he stated that any employer paying its employee below N30,000 was doing so in contravention of the law.
“If you read the Act well, you will see the applicability of the Act. The applicability is that all parts of the Federation (Section II); Section III also says N30,000 shall be paid, the operating word is shall.
“It does not give room for picking and choosing, it is a must. The state governors that are not paying are breaching the law of the land,” the minister said.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Minimum Wage Repeal and Re-Enactment Act, 2019 into law on April 18, 2019.
The Act makes it compulsory for all employers of labour in the country to pay a minimum of N30,000 to their workers and gives workers compelled to accept salary less than the amount the right to sue their employer to recover the balance.
It also authorises the Minister of Labour and any person nominated or designated by the minister to take action against such an employer on behalf of the worker to recover the balance of the wages.
The law, however, excludes persons employing less than 25 workers, persons who work in a ship that sails out of jurisdiction, and others in other kinds of regulated employment that are accepted by the Act.
Two years after the President assented to the Act, some states have begun to pay civil servants the new minimum wage while others still struggle to do so as a result of inadequate funds.
In his reaction, Ngige faulted governors negotiating with the labour unions in their states over the payment of the minimum wage to workers.
According to him, they are getting the issues mixed up as the minimum wage is different from the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
“This is a national law that states what you will pay to the lowest-paid employee (worker) in your establishment; state governments are employers… they are caught in the web of this law until repealed.
“Any state government or employer that negotiates minimum wage like some of them are doing with their unions, they are running afoul of the law,” the minister stated.
Asked what the next action would be for erring governors, he said, “I am negotiating with the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF); the law permits me to take them to court.
“I can take any employer to court. If governors have immunity, I can start from the secretary to the government, to the head of service, and go down to the State Executive Council; take them all to court and I do not need any permission.”
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Ayuba Wabba on Saturday threatened to embark on a mass industrial action if the proposed bill which seeks to transfer minimum wage to the concurrent list is passed by the National Assembly.
Mr Wabba made the remark during an event organised to mark Workers’ Day in Abuja.
“There have been attempts by a section the ruling class to remove the national minimum wage from Exclusive Legislative list to the concurrent list,” he said.
“This is condemnable. The national minimum wage is a global standard.
“Therefore, we are reinforcing our earlier position to state that Nigerian workers will not allow a situation where the progress we have made for the past 40 years to be taken by these group of politicians we are going to insist that any day that this law is considered by any of the chambers, Nigerian workers are going to withdraw their services.”
He also said Kaduna workers will withdraw their services for five days in protest of the sacking of workers by the Kaduna State Government.
If the workers are not reinstated, Mr Wabba stressed, there will be a total shutdown.