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.