By Favour Goodness
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has said the Federal Government does not owe the striking members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors or other health workers in the country.
He stated that only “illegally recruited” doctors are not being paid because they were neither captured by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation nor were their payments provided for by the Budget Office.
Speaking during the open session of the meeting of the Presidential Committee on Salaries with the leadership of the Joint Health Sector Unions in Abuja, Ngige referred to the presidential waiver for employment into the 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 noted, “NARD goes about telling Nigerians that government owes them salaries and that government is not taking the problems in the health sector seriously. 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 further said the FG owed few doctors and other workers 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, noting that work was in progress to clear these.
He blamed the Nigerian Medical Association and JOHESU for bringing segreworkers.in the negotiation for the new hazard allowance which he said the Federal Government already budgeted N37.5billion for.
The Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, said it was 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, regretted the expanding budgetary expenditure of the government even as revenue continues to dwindle.
President of JOHESU, Josiah Biobelemonye, pressed for the swift resolution of the challenges facing its members to avoid forcing them to strike.