NARD Strike: FG Insists No Doctor Is Being Owed Monthly Salary

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige (File Photo)

 

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.”

READ ALSO: Nnamdi Kanu Sues FG, Others Over Alleged Violation Of His Rights, Demands ₦5bn

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.

We Will Withdraw Court Case If You Go Back To Work, FG Tells Striking Doctors

A combination of photos showing the NARD logo and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.
A combination of photos showing the NARD logo and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.

 

The Federal Government is ready to withdraw the case instituted against the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) if striking doctors return to work.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said this on Sunday after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

“I have briefed Mr President, we have agreed that they should come back to work and if they come back to work, we can take other things from there. We will withdraw the case in court,” Ngige said.

READ ALSO: ‘We Are Starving Here,’ Nigerians In UAE Lament Work Permit Restrictions

“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.

 

FG, Striking Doctors Meet Again In Abuja

Federal Government representatives met with striking resident doctors on August 21, 2021.
Federal Government representatives met with striking resident doctors on August 21, 2021. Friday Okeregbe/Channels Television

 

After more than nine hours of meeting behind closed doors on Friday through Saturday morning, the Federal Government and striking resident doctors met again on Saturday.

The adjourned meeting had been slated for 10 am on Saturday but didn’t commence until about 4.30 pm.

READ ALSO: [Doctors’ Strike]: NMA To Intervene As Ngige Meets Stakeholders

In his opening remarks, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, reiterated that all issues in contention have been deliberated and agreed upon.

According to him, the N4.802 billion provided in the 2021 supplementary budget has been gotten from the Central Bank and sent to the Budget Office for processing.

But it appeared the striking doctors were still not satisfied with the Memorandum of Action printed by the government for their signatures before journalists were asked to exit the meeting.

The doctors embarked on a strike on August 2 over unpaid benefits, among other issues.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has threatened to implement a ‘no work, no pay’ policy even as negotiations between both parties continue.

Doctors’ Strike: NMA To Intervene As Ngige Meets Stakeholders

A combination of photos showing the NARD logo and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.
A combination of photos showing the NARD logo and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.

 

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.

Buhari Rejoices With ‘Selfless’ Ngige On 69th Birthday

A file photo combination of President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige.
A file photo combination of President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige.

 

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.

Healthcare In Nigeria Is ‘Fairly Okay’ – Ngige

FILE: The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, speaks during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.

 

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.”

(FILE) President Muhammadu Buhari with Nigeria High Commissioner to London, Ambassador Sarafa Ishola; the Lord Lieutenant of Sussex, Mrs Jennifer Tolhurst, and Mr David Pearey, shortly after he arrived in the United Kingdom.

 

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.

NLC Suspends Strike In Kaduna

 

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.

READ ALSO: Wabba Leads Day Three Of NLC Protest In Kaduna

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.

File photo of NLC members embarking on a strike in Kaduna State.

 

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.

Courts To Remain Closed As Judiciary Workers, FG Fail To Reach Agreement

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

Courts across the country will remain closed until at least next week after a meeting between judiciary workers and representatives of the Federal Government ended with no concrete solutions.

The meeting was postponed till next week.

The workers have been on strike since April as they insist on financial autonomy for the judiciary.

READ ALSO: Judiciary Workers Resume Partial Work In Lagos

The Federal Government has said the appropriate laws for judiciary autonomy have been signed into law and that implementation lies with state governments.

At Thursday’s meeting, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, reiterated that the Federal Government has no problem with the issue of financial autonomy for the judiciary.

He maintained that it is an issue that concerns states and their finances.

The Minister added that major progress has been made during the series of meetings the government has held since the strike was declared.

Ngige said 90 percent of all requirements have been met and that the remaining 10 percent need to be addressed after the reopening of the courts.

He pleaded with the workers to suspend their strike, so that all the procedures can be operationalised.

He also said that the closure of courts is an impediment for security agencies, who cannot charge suspects of crimes such as kidnapping and banditry to court.

In his remarks, President of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), Marwan Adamu, said the meeting wouldn’t have been necessary if the position of the law and constitution had been adhered to.

He said the workers were not attempting to negotiate the constitution but to ensure compliance with its provisions on financial autonomy for the judiciary.

Governors Not Paying Minimum Wage Are Breaching The Law – Ngige

 

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.

Buhari Signs N30,000 Minimum Wage Bill Into Law
President Muhammadu Buhari assents to the Minimum Wage Repeal and Re-Enactment Act, 2019 at the Aso Villa in Abuja on April 18, 2019.

 

‘Take Them To Court’

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).

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, speaks during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.

 

“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.”

Workers’ Day: Labour Threatens Mass Action Over Minimum Wage Law

 

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.

READ ALSO: NLC Threatens To Embark On Nationwide Strike Over Sacked Kaduna Workers

Meanwhile Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, who was representing President Muhammadu Buhari at the event, said the new minimum wage law applies to everyone, and state governments are bound by it.

He added that he is opposed to moving the minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list.

Anti-Worker bill

The minimum wage bill is being sponsored by Garba Datti, an APC lawmaker from Kaduna.

The bill passed second reading at the House of Representatives in February.

According to Datti, rather than impose a central minimum wage, states should have the capacity to decide their own wages, based on their own socio-economic variables and circumstance.

Members of the Nigeria Labour Congress protested in Abuja over a minimum wage bill on March 10, 2021.
Members of the Nigeria Labour Congress protested in Abuja over a minimum wage bill on March 10, 2021.

 

However, the NLC has described the bill as anti-worker.

On March 10, NLC members staged a protest at the Unity Fountain in Abuja before marching to the National Assembly complex to demand the bill’s withdrawal.

World Bank Has Disputed Nigeria’s Employment Statistics – Ngige

A file photo of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige

 

The World Bank has questioned the methodology employed the National Bureau of Statistics to to generate its employment statistics.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige revealed this on Wednesday during while receiving the leadership of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) in his office.

According to the NBS, in a report released in March, the country’s unemployment rate rose from 27.1 percent in the second quarter of 2020 to 33.3 percent in the fourth quarter.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Exited Recession ‘Faster Than Expected’ – World Bank

Ngige said the Federal Government will meet virtually with World Bank representatives on Thursday to discus the modalities of the NBS’s data gathering.

“We have a virtual meeting of the National Economic Advisory Council with the World Bank to look at Nigeria’s modalities for employment statistics data collection,” Ngige said, according to a statement signed by spokesman Charles Akpan.

“There has been a little confusion there as to the accuracy of data generated by the NBS. So, we want to align everything tomorrow. The World Bank says the NBS methodology doesn’t conform with the global standard, especially the ILO format of arriving at such Employment Index.”

Ngige, who described the meeting as very important, recalled that he had severally queried the employment statistics released by the NBS.

Labour laws

Regarding the review of labour laws in the country, the Minister said “progress has been made and it is now at the validation stage” and expressed gratitude to CIPM for being part of the process

“On your request to play more active role, it is the more, the merrier. We will be happy to have you on board, as you are part and parcel of our Ministry. The institute has grown and will continue to grow. For us in the Ministry, our doors remain open whenever you want us to assist.”

Ngige accepted the offer from the CIPM for his induction into the institute in recognition of his competence and frontline position in managing labour and industrial relations in the country.

Earlier, the President of CIPM, Wale Adeniran told the Minister that they came to celebrate him for his role in managing industrial crisis, which enables the economy to run.

Adeniran requested the presence of the Minister as the Special Guest of Honour and Keynote Speaker in the CIPM Fellow’s Awards and Human Resources Recognition Ceremonies, billed for Thursday in Abuja.

Loose Ends Remain In Agreement With Judiciary Workers – Ngige

A file photo of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige

 

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige on Tuesday said loose ends remain in the agreement reached with judiciary workers.

The striking workers met with key stakeholders on Monday at the State House in Abuja where it was resolved that their call for financial autonomy for state legislative and judiciary will be implemented by May 2021.

However, earlier on Tuesday, the judiciary workers staged a walkout from a follow-up reconciliation meeting with the Federal Government and representatives of the State Governors, after waiting for over an hour at the conference room of the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

Reacting to the walkout, Dr. Ngige said his work on some “loose ends” in Monday’s agreement caused his lateness to the meeting.

“Once necessary agreements have been reached as memorandum of understanding, we bring everybody here and detail them with timelines and timeframe,” he said.

“So they came for this meeting. But there were some loose ends they did not tie up. So I asked the Permanent Secretary and the officials responsible to explain to them that they have to exercise patience to enable us tidy these areas before meeting with them.

“So, nobody slighted them, nobody refused to meet with them. We wanted to meet with them so that the meeting would be fruitful, so that whatever is signed here will be implementable.

“We are making contact with them by tomorrow. And this work has not even finished. The government side has to go back and tie up the loose ends that I have pointed out to them here.”