First, it was health workers in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, who threatened to down tools, but the House of Representatives swung in and knocked together a settlement that will see some aggri6 health workers getting paid by Friday. The grouse was over unpaid salaries for some of them.
In Lagos, doctors through their association, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Lagos, on Wednesday ordered its members to stay aeay from their posts over conflicting directives from government and security agencies on movement of persons during the curfew hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
But that was quickly resolved within 24 hours following the intervention of security chiefs, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and the Lagos State Government.
But in Kaduna State, the Government has vowed to keep its health facilities running and to protect staff that are willing to provide services to the public as health workers threatened a strike action.
The government said on Thursday, in its official response to the notice of strike issued by health workers, that it will not bend to blackmail.
A statement signed by Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Mr Muyiwa Adekeye, warned that ‘’Government rejects the strike threat and will regard persons who fail to show up at their assigned places of work as having forfeited their employment.’’
‘’Every health worker that is willing to work is required to sign the register at the Ministry of Health and the health institutions to which they are deployed,’’ he emphasised.
Adekeye further warned that ‘’those who are not willing to work are strongly warned against criminal action such as attempts to impede access to workplaces, harass willing workers or to sabotage facilities and equipment.’’
The Special Adviser pointed out that to ‘’declare strike action amidst the Covid-19 pandemic is naked blackmail, based on the mistaken assumption that the state government will reward irresponsible conduct by some health workers with surrender.’’
According to him, government will not be misled into granting health workers a special status amongst public servants.
Adekeye argued that ‘’the consequences of concessions made along such lines by previous governments have created a sense that some public servants are more precious than others.’’
The Special Adviser reminded that the salary deductions which were ‘’introduced in April 2020 apply to everyone who works for Kaduna State Government, from the Governor to the most junior civil servant with a take-home pay of more than N50,000 monthly.’’
‘’Government will not be browbeaten by strike action into excluding health workers from the sacrifices being made by other public servants who are donating 25% of their salary to fund the provision of palliatives for low-income, poor and vulnerable persons that are impacted by the lockdown,’’ he added.
The statement said that it frowns at discriminating against any professional group in the public service, adding that the donation to the Covid-19 fund is a show of solidarity which ‘’applies to everyone employed by the government, and therefore does not exclude health workers.’’
The Special Adviser pointed out that health workers are already being paid additional amounts as part of an Occupational Safety Initiative.
The statement said that ‘’high risk staff are receiving a compensation of N15,000 per day. This refers to all cadres of personnel who are in close contact with Covid-19 patients.’’
Adekeye further said that ‘’medium risk staff are receiving N10,000 per day. These are officers involved in taking samples, transferring patients to treatment centres, tracing contacts etc.’’
The Special Adviser further said that ‘’low risk staff are receiving N5,000 per day.’’
According to him, ‘’ government is also paying a monthly incentive of 10% of net pay to each and every health worker in its hospitals and primary health centres.
‘’In addition, the Kaduna State Government has paid premiums for an enhanced insurance package for health workers that raises the death and disability benefits to N5m and N2.5m respectively. The insurance package also includes payment of N100,000 per day for 10 days to health workers who get infected with Covid-19,’’ he added.
The state government regards the health workers demand ‘’ to treat the over 11,000 persons working in the health sector as frontline staff and pay them as such is not a serious request.’’
The statement said that ‘’there is a global shortage of PPEs, but amidst these supply-side difficulties the state government consistently tries to keep its secondary health facilities supplied. ‘’
Press Statement from the Office of the Speaker, House of Representatives
In Abuja, the leadership of the House of Representatives resolved the issues surrounding the delays in the payment of salary of some health workers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Consequently, some of the health workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) and the Assembly of Healthcare Professionals are to receive their salary on or before May 22, 2020, which will be Friday.
The issues were resolved at a meeting, on Wednesday, between the leadership of the House, led by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Minister of the FCT Mohammed Musa Bello, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris and officials of JOHESU, led by their chairperson in the FCT, Comrade Deborah Yusuf, among others.
In his remarks at the meeting, Gbajabiamila expressed dismay that some health workers in the FCT, who have been at the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, did not receive their salary and allowances since January.
The Speaker, who said he considered the meeting “extremely important because there is the potential that lives are at risk,” noted that the House would not fold its arms and watch the health workers embark on strike, as they threatened to, on May 28.
Gbajabiamila said from the information at his disposal, the issues had to do with the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, saying equity and diligence must be adhered to in dealing with such issues.
He commended the health workers for their sacrifices and patience over the past few months and assured that the House would always prioritize their welfare.
Speaking, FCT Minister, Bello, while thanking the Speaker for his intervention, said the FCT Administration had always paid salaries as and when due, but that with the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), they have been experiencing some hiccups.
However, he noted that following the intervention of the House leadership through the Committee on Healthcare Services, all the issues were resolved with the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
On his part, Minister of Health, Ehanire, thanked the Speaker for the good leadership he has been providing and for championing the cause of the Nigerian masses.
Giving an update on the issue, the Accountant General of the Federation, Idris, said all issues have been resolved and that the FCT health workers would get their salary on or before May 22.
Narrating how the problem came about, he said after the FCTA approached his office for enrollment into the IPPIS sometime in 2018, over 25,000 workers of the administration were enrolled in over 12 months.
However, he said it was later discovered that more than 500 of them, mainly health workers and teachers, were not captured and that the process of capturing them was delayed due to the lockdown necessitated by COVID-19.
“As we speak, we’ve done the payroll and payment will be made on or before the 22nd of this month. Today is 20th, I can assure that they will get their salary before the 22nd,” he said.
Earlier, the chairman of the House Committee on Healthcare Services, Rep Tanko Yusuf Sununu, briefed the meeting about the actions taken by the House through his Committee, which included series of meetings with the relevant authorities since March.
The chairman of the JOHESU in FCT, Mrs Yusufu, thanked the Speaker for his intervention as well as the two ministers for their concern. She also thanked the Accountant General for the actions taken so far.
She said the Speaker has been a father to the FCT JOHESU and that he has now become an honorary member of their union, saying they were not against IPPIS, but that all they desire was for their salary and allowances to be paid on time.