The Federal Government, on Tuesday, dismissed as ”untrue” claims that doctors and health workers in Nigeria are being owed salary.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, stated this at the opening of the meeting of the Presidential Committee on Salaries with the leadership of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU).
Ngige said the fumes from the propaganda machine of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) were obfuscating the federal government’s efforts to reposition 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 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,” the minister said.
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.
He maintained that the money which the 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. He said work was in progress to clear it.
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, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora said it was such a wrong time to go on strike, noting that despite financial constraints, the government was committed to payment of salaries of doctors and health workers
The Minister of State for Finance, Budget and Planning, Clement Agba said despite the dwindling revenue, the federal government was doing its best and committed to workers’ welfare.
He, however, said the government would not 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.