Minster of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, yesterday, 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, yesterday,  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. 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 N37.5billion 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 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 the 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.

Ayomide Oyewole

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