Frank Ikpefan and Moses Emorinken, and Bolaji Ogundele Abuja
- Ngige rushes to Aso Villa, meets with JOHESU tomorrow
- Doctors reject terms
Fearing a collapse of the health sector with the strike notice served by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), the government at the weekend began moves to restore order.
The JOHESU 15-day notice, served on September 12, followed last week’s 21-day strike notice by the Nigeria Medical Association.
Resident doctors, under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), have been on strike since August 2.
They have been undeterred by the suit filed by the Federal Government at the National Industrial Court and the invocation of the “no-work-no-pay” rule.
Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige rushed to Aso Villa for consultation with President Muhammadu Buhari.
He gave a window of opportunity for resident doctors to end the strike.
Ngige told reporters at the Aso Villa that the government was ready to withdraw the suit if the doctors agreed to call off the strike.
He told The Nation that he would meet with JOHESU tomorrow to stave off their planned strike.
But the resident doctors rejected the minister’s overtures and vowed to continue.
Ngige said: “I am surprised that they are issuing that threat on the issues that are undergoing reconciliation already and which we have almost finished. They are still putting them as part of new issues.
“We have alerted them that they are coming for a meeting on Tuesday (tomorrow).
“They already have our letter of invitation so I am surprised that they are also issuing a threat.
“I got their letter on Friday. We will resolve that when we meet on Tuesday.”
JOHESU is demanding the adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHES), payment of all withheld salaries, review of the implementation of COVID-19 special inducement and hazard allowance, and increase in the retirement age from 60 to 65 for health workers and 70 for consultants.
NARD President Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi yesterday insisted that the strike would not be called off until the Federal Government met the content of the MOU it signed over 120 days ago.
Okhuaihesuyi told The Nation that it was unfortunate that the government resorted to the court instead of finding a creative way to address NARD’s demands.
He said the government could go ahead and punish the resident doctors for not returning to work if it so desired.
“They took us to court, so they are the ones to withdraw the case. Which one is easier? Honouring an MOU or giving excuses?
“Those doctors that have not been paid, have they paid them now? Those that are working in the Ministry should be queried for not doing their own work.
“They are instead giving excuses and running to feed the President with lies.
“They said they have done everything when they have done nothing.
“If they had done what they wrote down over 120 days ago, then we do not need to go on this strike.
Also yesterday, the NMA advised the government to go back to the negotiating table instead of being on the offensive.
Stressing the need to quickly resolve all the contentious issues in the sector, it warned that the health sector risked a collapse.
NMA Secretary-General Dr Ekpe Phillips, said: “The government has to have a holistic approach to solve each and everyone’s problems, so that our people can enjoy health.
“The situation is not good for the masses who are helpless now and cannot do anything.
“It is only the government that can help them by making sure that all these issues are resolved as fast as possible.
Govt won’t succumb to arm-twisting tactics
Ngige said the government would not succumb to arm-twisting by the striking doctors.
The minister, who insisted that existing codes, both locally and internationally must be honoured, including the ‘no-work, no-pay’ provision, added that he was at the Presidential Villa to discuss the state of the health sector with President Buhari.
He said: “As you well know, the resident doctors are still on strike, their strike has now entered the 33rd day today(yesterday).
“Meanwhile, the government is doing everything possible to make sure they get back to work.
“Out of their 12-point issues raised in their demands, we have done all, we have come to agreements on all, including those that even affect the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria and medical doctors who are in academics and teaching universities.
“So, we have handled all, the only point of disagreement now is that they said that the agreements and the memorandum of action, the government should inserts, include that Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act will not apply to them.”
He pointed out that the government had before now applied the ‘no work, no pay’ rule on some unions that embarked on strike.
Ngige added: “As a government, succumb to undue arm twisting and then go and sign that. Other workers have lost their pay during strikes; JOHESU lost their pay in 2018 when they went on four months strike, they lost about two or three months pay when the no-work, no-pay was invoked.
“I briefed Mr. President and we’ve agreed that they should come back to work and if they do, we can take other things from there; we’ll drop the case in court and then they will come back and get things done.
“We have done the first round of scrutinisation and they will now compare what they have with the Post-Graduate Medical College and the Chief Medical Directors who submitted their names.
“We discovered that about 2,000 names shouldn’t be there because they don’t have what is called Postgraduate Reference Numbers of National Postgraduate Medical College and (or) that of the West African Postgraduate Medical College.
“This is it and that is the only thing holding back the Residency Fund payment because it is there already. Once they verify the authenticity of those they are submitting, the Accountant-General will pay.”
TUC gives strike notice to Fayemi over unpaid workers’ benefits
The Trade Union Congress (TUC), Ekiti chapter, has advised Gov Kayode Fayemi to pay workers backlog of arrears as promised during his electioneering campaign in 2018 before the expiration of his tenure on Oct. 15, 2022.
The labour union said redeeming such pledge would further reinforce workers’ trust in the APC-led administration in Ekiti and smoothen relationship with the incoming Governor, Biodun Oyebanji.
The union congratulated Oyebanji on his victory in the recently concluded Governorship poll, urging him to be magnanimous in victory by being inclusive in governance and forming robust alliance with opposition, to build Ekiti of his dream.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that this was contained in a statement in Ado Ekiti after the union’s State Executive Council’s meeting and signed by its State Chairman, Sola Adigun.
The council condemned in strong terms, the rate of kidnapping of citizens in the state, urging Fayemi to devise means to curtail the nefarious act, threatening peaceful coexistence and investment drives.
Sequel to government’s inability to meet some pending workers’ demands, TUC issued a 21-day ultimatum to government to pay all arrears of salaries, deductions and promotion, failing which industrial harmony could no longer be guaranteed.
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“The TUC commends the government’s prompt payment of salary since the inception of this outgoing administration in October 2018 till date.
However, the TUC reminds Governor Fayemi of his initial promise to offset all arrears payment before the expiration of the tenure.
“But we noted with dismay, the refusal of the government to remit the already deducted dues such as co-operative deductions, contributory pension, bank loans repayment, NHF fund, to the appropriate quarters.
He said this had made life becoming unbearable for workers.
“We equally frown seriously at the refusal of the Accountant-General of the State to continue with cooperative savings update of Ekiti workers, due to the alleged presence of some syndicate operating in her office.
“Most members of TUC have not benefited from the new minimum wage after almost two years of implementation in the state.
” We call on the government to implement the minimum wage across the board for all workers without further delay.
“We note that the financial backing giving the 2018 – 2019 promotion exercise was selectively implemented.
“Hence, we call on government to ensure that others exempted should be immediately captured for financial remuneration.
“The TUC also demands that the facilities in the health institution, especially the teaching hospital, be upgraded to meet up with the expected standard of best practice.
“Finally, the meeting demands that the government should set machinery in motion within the next 21 days to meet up with the demands, failing which industrial harmony will no longer be guaranteed”.
Army to engage retired soldiers in insecurity fight – COAS
The Nigerian Army says it will continue to engage the services of its retired personnel in tackling insecurity in the country.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Faruk Yahaya said at this on Tuesday night at a ”Regimented Dinner ” he organised for the 2021 set of retired officers from its 3 Division, Rukuba, near Jos.
The COAS, who was represented by Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Ali, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) the division and Commander Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), thanked the retired personnel for their sacrifices and commitment to duty while in service.
He explained that the expertise of the retired personnel would be needed toward supporting the Nigerian army in its bid to end all forms of insecurity in the nation.
”I wish to assure you that the Nigerian army is grateful for the services you rendered to our father land.
”There are ongoing efforts to engage the services of the retired professionals with the wealth of experiences gathered over the years.
”These experiences are necessary toward tackling all forms of insecurity in our nation, ”he said.
Yahaya added that the dinner was organised to appreciate the retired personnel and their spouses for thier meritorious service to the nation.
The COAS assured the personnel still serving, to put in their best in securing the territorial integrity of the nation and promised to make their welfare top of his priorities.
Also speaking, retired Maj.-Gen. Hasaan Umaru, who was Special Guest at the event, thanked the COAS for introducing the dinner as a welfare package for the retired officers.
He tasked the retired officers to be good ambassadors of the Nigerian army and be ready to support it anytime their services would be needed.
Umaru advised them to contribute to the growth of their immediate communities and the society in general.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that earlier, a buffet was held in honour of retired soldiers at the cantonment.
20 million Nigerians benefitting from our cash transfer – FG
The Federal Government says over two million households in Nigeria are currently benefitting from its conditional cash transfer programme.
The government also said over 20 million persons were indirect beneficiaries of the programme in the two million households.
This came as it began partnership with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC,the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission,ICPC and other relevant agencies to probe compliance level of the National Social Investment Programme,NSIP in states of the federation.
The National Coordinator of the National Social Investment Programmes, NSIP, Dr. Umar Bindir, speaking on Tuesday at the stakeholders’ meeting on state compliance check exercise of NSIP in Abuja, said, ”As we speak, we are now advancing cash transfer to two million households, these are houses of not individuals, so if you are approximately putting 10 people per household,you are talking about probably like 20 million or so people that we are handling.”
Bandir said the government was spending between N12 billion to N15 billion monthly.
“When you look at N-Power,we have a bill of possibly between N12 billion to 15 billion every month. And you can estimate that we have 510,000 now ongoing and we have the batch c for 490,000 coming on,so when you multiply the number of the graduates by N30,000 per month, you will get the figure,”he said.
He said government was injecting N12 billion and N14 billion every month into the funds for feeding school children.
He said, “If you look at the school feeding,you will see that we are feeding between nine to ten million children nationwide and each child on a schooling day is fed with N70 per meal,so again,when you do the arithmetic,you get something maybe between N12 billion and N14 billion every month in feeding these children during school every month.
“But the finances injected in summary,into the National Social Investment Programme,the recurrent alone is over N300 billion. That is not enough,that is less than possibly what is required, gauging against the number of poor and vulnerable we have in this country.
He said, ”We are beginning to see the multiply effects, people who have gotten credit and are now hiring one or more people, therefore,the employment generation is improving. The graduates,some of them are exiting and establishing their businesses.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Dr Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, speaking at the event, said government had begun partnership with relevant agencies in carrying out the compliance check of the implementation guidelines “of all our programmes and to develop a standard and effective compliance check structure for the various NSIP assignments.”
The Permanent Secretary,who was represented by the Director, Special Needs, Mrs Nkechi Onwukwe, explained that,”Our primary goal is to meet the needs of the people who need a helping hand from Government to restore hope, provide support and succor, as well as an enabling environment for recovery, rehabilitation and social inclusion, while ensuring their human dignity is upheld at all times.”
The creation of the ministry,he explained, “was necessitated by the compelling need to harmonize, synergize, institutionalize, as well as provide coordination of all government’s humanitarian and social interventions.
“This is in line with the vision of Mr. President to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.”
“The National Social Investment Programme, a social investment initiative aimed at tackling poverty across the country was launched, targeting “the poorest of the poor and the socially excluded members of the society.”
Speaking more on the event, he said, ”The activities of the Mmnistry constantly impact on the well-being of the indigent citizens and contributes to the socio-economic development of the country and in order for the ministry to effectively provide the desired and much needed coordination and leadership it was conceived to provide, it must have an effective and consistent means of appraising its activities.”
Sani-Gwarzo said since inception, the ministry had so far “achieved a lot in the area of the provision and effective coordination of humanitarian interventions in keeping with our mandate. “
“We have also been able to provide coordination through cooperation and partnerships with relevant government MDA’s, development partners, UN agencies and other strategic partners.
“This is all in a bid to ensure sustained and expanded social protection programmes, prompt emergency response services, and appropriately targeted humanitarian interventions,”he said.
Noting that,“The National Social Investment Programme,NSIP is the biggest social protection and poverty eradication programme ever put in place by any government in Nigeria and one of the biggest in Africa”,he explained that:”it was established by President Buhari in 2016 to address immediate and long-term socio-economic imbalances and inequalities, alleviate poverty, and stimulate accelerated economic growth.”
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