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EFCC, ICPC May Go after Doctors for Fraudulently Collecting N540m Training Allowance

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The federal government is considering dragging some medical doctors through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for illegally collecting medical training allowances meant for House Officers on residency training programme in 2020, to the tune of N540 million.
The move came as THISDAY learnt that the government had released N4.8 billion for the 2021 residency training programme.
Reliable sources at the Federal Ministry of Health and Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment told THISDAY at the weekend that the health ministry was considering reporting the doctors, who failed to refund the illegal payment to the treasury, to the anti-corruption agencies.
The source said there were three categories of medical officers involved in the scam, including some consultant doctors.
The source also said the government had accused the managements of some of the Teaching Hospitals of allegedly smuggling names of those who had completed their residency training programme into the list of House Officers that received payment from the medical training fund in 2020.
According to the source, though the affected doctors had promised to refund the money, they were yet to do so, thereby making it difficult for the ones due for the training to access their allowances.
THISDAY gathered that the federal government was particularly concerned that some of the consultant doctors who were involved in the illegal deal had not shown remorse for their action but rather were among those collaborating with resident doctors on the on-going strike.
The source also disclosed that out of the 8,000 House Officers that applied for the 2021 residency training programme, 2,000 were screened out for not having postgraduate residency training numbers.
The source said verification was on-going to ensure that only those qualified were deployed for the next programme.
According to the source, the Federal Ministry of Finance has released N4.8 billion as this year’s residency training fund to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation two weeks ago.
Regarding the smuggling of names into the salary payment platform, the source said the federal government had issued queries to Chief Medical Directors of the Federal Teaching Hospitals involved in the illegal act.
About 205 doctors were alleged to have been illegally recruited at the Ibadan Teaching Hospital, while the Calabar Teaching Hospital carried out illegal recruitment of over 100 doctors out of the 500 health workers.
According to the source, these illegally recruited doctors and health workers formed the majority of those that the NARD leadership were demanding that government should pay before they would end their on-going strike.
The source said, “These CMDs went ahead to recruit new doctors and other health workers without relevant approvals and ignoring the federal character principles. They went further to smuggle their names into the (GIFIMS) salary payment platform.
“Teaching Hospital, Ibadan recruited over 950 health workers without waiver from the office of the Head of Service, without certificate of finance and manpower compliance from the Budget Office of the Federation and without compliance with the federal character principle.
“These illegally recruited doctors and health workers were among those that NARD is demanding that federal government must pay salaries. This amounts to arm twisting of the government and cover-up of fraudulent act and it will not happen.
“The federal government in its magnanimity, despite the on-going strike, has decided to pay these illegally recruited doctors and health workers by asking the Head of Service of the Federation to approve a waiver for the affected doctors to be recruited formally into full employment.
“The Budget Office of the Federation is now working to capture them into the budget to be paid through the service wide vote.”
But, in a statement issued at the weekend and made available to THISDAY, former President of NARD, Dr. Muhammad Askira, accused some government officials of deliberately delaying the grant of waiver for recruitment or replacement of medical doctors and other health workers in the federal government health institutions.
Part of the grievances of the striking Resident Doctors was that their members were being owed several months of salaries and allowances by federal and state governments.
Askira, while justifying the current strike by resident doctors, said it was as a result of the government’s insincerity in implementing agreed actionable series of memoranda.
He alleged that there was currently a dearth of medical manpower in healthcare institutions caused by unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks.
Askira alleged that the country presently had a doctor-to –patients’ ratio of 1: 7000, adding that many hospitals are finding it difficult to recruit or replace doctors.
According to Askira, many doctors are leaving the country to other climes where they can do their job with satisfaction.
He said, “As a result, the hospitals are depleted but find it difficult to employ new staff because of bureaucratic processes that involve the Budget Office of the Federation, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the Federal Character Commission as well as the Federal Ministry of Health.
“This has made the work burden on the available doctors to be unbearably high, resulting in physician burnout and limited care to a limited number of people needing care.”
Writing on the alleged rot in the public health sector, Askira said the process of recruitment or replacement of medical staff was incessantly delayed for no just reason. He accused some officials in the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies of corruption and deliberately delaying grant of approval for waiver for recruitment or replacement of medical staff.
He said, “It takes an average of 8-12 months for a lucky hospital to finally obtain a waiver for recruitment or replacement of medical staff. In some cases, the hospitals would be forced to consider candidates from some directors and politicians if at all they want the processes to be expedited, otherwise, it would be out rightly rejected or at best delayed and the required number slashed.”
But the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, had debunked these, saying contrary to the claims by the striking members of NARD, no genuinely recruited doctor or health worker in Nigeria is being owed monthly salary.
Speaking recently at a conciliatory meeting with doctors, Ngige had said, “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 payment provided for by the Budget Office of the Federation.”

Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Thisdaylive

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Everything is the opposite yet Nigeria not a complete disaster – Soyinka

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Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, has said Nigerians are still managing to eke out a living despite the bleak realities confronting the country.

Soyinka spoke during an interview with the Cable News Network monitored by our correspondent.

Commenting on the ironic title for his first novel in 48 years, Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth, he said things happened around one as one grew up, witnessing the degrading of dream and environment in one’s society and on the continent.

He explained that for him, the issue had been an arduous journey, adding, “It has reached such a stage, I found intuitively, that only prose fiction can handle things that have been bubbling up inside me.”

He said the title came after some people some years ago conducted a poll which placed Nigeria among the top four happiest nations in the world.

The playwright noted, “That thing has been with me, in my head. I asked, ‘Who are these people? What do they know? What have they seen? What have they experienced in Nigeria that they make such an attribution?’ That title really has been waiting to answer that claim in many ways. When you look at the surroundings, everything is the opposite and yet, Nigeria is not a complete disaster.

“People still manage to eke out a living not only a living but to some extent a dignified and satisfied living. I think it’s not surface appearance of contentment or making the best of a really bad job, insisting that no matter what life must go on… It’s that which needed to be, quote and unquote, celebrated in addition to the bleak actualities.”

The elder statesman further said he took the decision to change his former relationship if Donald Trump was elected president of the United States despite “being literally an enemy of decency and humanity’’ and his blatantly discontent for non-white humanity.

He stated, “I never really totally turned my back on the United States. I mean how could one? We have many Nigerians there, to start with. When I stroll through the streets of the United States, I sometimes think the United States is an extension of Nigeria, that it’s part of our diaspora.” That’s not an easy decision but it was inevitable.”

Commenting on the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to Tanzanian novelist, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Soyinka said his immediate statement after the announcement was “let the African tribe expand wherever situated.”

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Insecurity: Royal Navy Warship arrives in Lagos

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The Royal Navyship, HMS TRENT has arrived Lagos State as part of its three months deployment to the Gulf of Guinea.

The HMS TRENT and her contingent of Royal Marines from 42 Commando are on a three-month deployment to the Gulf of Guinea.

Port of Lagos is the second stop for HMS TRENT since departing Gibraltar in October.

The Royal Navy War ship was recieved by the United Kingdom, UK, Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, Ben Llewellyn-Jones, at a reception on Saturday.

According to Llewellyn-Jones: “Nigeria’s security and prosperity matters to the UK. The Royal Navy is here because the UK is a committed partner for Nigeria and the wider West African region.

“We will continue to work with the Nigerian authorities to address illegal activity; improve maritime security; counter-piracy and tackle the Illegal Wildlife Trade.

“To do this we will draw on the experience we have of cross and multi-agency co-operation in the UK to promote peace, development, and prosperity.”

The ship’s company of HMS Trent have a packed schedule of events, including various capability demonstrations and training, with 42 Commando delivering their specific Vessel Boarding, Search and Seizure training to the Nigerian Navy.

In addition, members of the ship’s company will also step ashore with a charity beach clean as well as attending the Maritime Security Conference at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA).

Also speaking, HMS Trent’s Commanding Officer, Commander Thomas Knott said: “As Trent made her way to the Gulf of Guinea my crew honed their skills in Maritime Security Operations and commenced Counter Illicit Activity Patrols.

“Piracy, Narcotics and broader criminal activities in this region demand that my Royal Navy Sailors and Royal Marine Commando Force are always ready to respond, from Boarding Operations through to lifesaving assistance at sea.”

Boarding exercises are vital integration training for the newly embarked Royal Marines, who joined at the start of HMS Trent’s patrol of the Gulf of Guinea.

42 Commando will perform a key role as part of the ship’s company of HMS Trent, training partner forces across the region and helping to develop their capabilities.

The three-month deployment will see the ship travel around the Gulf of Guinea, visiting countries including Ghana, Senegal, and Gambia.

Alongside their commitments to conduct joint exercises and train with partners in the region, HMS Trent will also conduct maritime security patrols and promote the UK’s position as co-president at the G7++ Friends of Gulf of Guinea conference in November.

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FG considering posthumous pardon for Ken Saro-Wiwa, others – Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari says the Federal Government is considering a state pardon for nine Ogoni leaders/activists convicted and hanged by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha 26 years ago for opposing the operating practices of the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Corporation.

The Ogoni Nine are author and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel and John Kpuine, They were executed  on November 10, 1995.

Buhari gave the hint when he had an audience with some leaders and people of Ogoni land at the State House, according to a statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.

According to the President Buhari, despite the gravity of the circumstances, the Federal Government will consider the request to grant them pardon and bring closure to the case.

He said: “Furthermore, we are committed to ensuring clemency and national integration as part of this administration’s bid to lay the foundation for genuine reconciliation and bring closure to the issues of Ogoni Land.

“The unfortunate incidents of the early 1990s leading to the loss of lives of distinguished sons of Ogoni land and the collateral judicial processes are indelible in our memories.

“Despite the grievous circumstances, the Federal Government will consider the request for the grant of pardon to finally close the Ogoni saga,’’

President Buhari urged the Ogoni leaders to sensitize indigenes on value of protecting national assets like pipelines and other oil installations, saying willful damages usually create more havoc on their environment and hamper development in the area.

He also noted that the Federal Government is committed to the cleaning up of Ogoni land so that indigenes can regain their lives, return to farms and reactivate economic activities.

“You will need to educate the people of Ogoni land and the region more, that when pipelines are broken, the damage is more to the immediate environment and the people. The majority farmers and fishermen struggle because the fishes now move to the deep sea,’’ he said.

The President observed that bad industry practices coupled with security challenges had resulted in massive spills with attendant environmental degradation of Ogoni, leading to agitations and strife.

He said the government would bring to a close all pending issues on sons of Ogoni land.

 

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