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Doctors’ Strike: Federal Government approves N8.9 billion for June COVID-19 hazard allowance

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The Nigerian government has approved additional N8.9 billion to pay up the large chunk of the June 2020 COVID-19 allowance to all Medical Health Workers in the country.

Senator Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment disclosed this during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the end of the meeting between the Federal Government and the Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) on Wednesday in Abuja.

It would be recalled that NARD had embarked on a total and an indefinite strike in all Federal and State hospitals in the country to press for its demands.

NARD demands including the payment of the Medical Residency Training funding to all members as approved in the revised 2020 Budget, provision of genuine Group Life Insurance and Death in Service Benefits for all health workers.

Others are payment of outstanding April/May and June COVID-19 inducement allowance, determination of revised hazard allowance for all health workers as agreed in previous meetings with relevant stakeholders, immediate payment of salary shortfall of 2014, 2015 and 2016, among others.

Senator Chris Ngige said that implementation of the payment of the Special Hazard and Inducement Allowance has been concluded.

According to him, the meeting satisfied that the N20 billion already appropriated in 2020 COVID-19 budget has been exhausted.

The meeting commended the Federal Government and Mr. President for approving additional N8.9bn to pay up the large chunk of the June 2020 COVID-19 allowance to all Medical Health Workers.

He said this has been cash backed and the mandate sent to the Central Bank of Nigeria for payments to start with effect from Sept. 9.

However, this will bring the total disbursement to about N288 billion.

The minister also said that on the Provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), NARD had agreed that the Hospitals and Isolation Centres, have sufficient PPE.

He also said that on the provision of Group Life Insurance for Doctors and other Health Care Workers and payment of death-in-service benefit to next of kin/beneficiaries, that the government had paid the total sum of N9.3 billion to Insurance Companies for Life Group Insurance and payment of death benefits for Health Workers.

Ngige, however, said that on the issue of the Universal implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act in all Federal and State Hospitals, that the 2020 Appropriation Act was revised due to COVID-19 pandemic.

He noted that the N4 billion appropriated for Residency Training under a wrong heading for Medical Residency Training was to be vired before expenditure.

He said the process of amendment was therefore ongoing and was expected that this process and cash backing would be through in two weeks.

According to Ngige, on the payment of outstanding 2014, 2015, and 2016 arrears, the meeting recalled that it had been agreed upon that the issue would be further discussed explaining that as a post COVID-19 issue which implied that no agreement was breached.

He also noted that on the issue of Consequential Adjustment of the National Minimum Wage that government would pay all owed arrears to members of the association and would also implement such in States Tertiary Health Institutions.

“It was noted that those affected were the Youth Corps Members and House Officers, who are regarded as ad hoc staff and for State Hospitals, the Federal Government can only be persuasive.

“It was recalled that NARD had been assigned the responsibility to submit a list from the defaulting hospitals to the Federal Ministry of Health for onward transmission to the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning,”Ngige said.

The minister further said that on the issue of domestication of the Residency Training Act by State Government, it agrees to recognise the autonomy of states within the Federation.

He said the meeting agreed that the issue would be tabled at the National Economic Council and National Council of Health to persuade the states to domesticate the Act.

“In view of these Understandings, NARD will consult with her Executive Council within the next 24hours with a view to calling off the strike by September 10, 2020.

“Nobody will be victimized for any activity connected with or for participating in the industrial action,”Ngige said.

Dr  Sokomba Aliyu, NARD National President said that the meeting was successful as a lot of pledges and agreements were reached with timeline.

“Following the outcome of this meeting, we are hoping that all of that will address the concerns of our members, so we shall be convoking a meeting immediate with our members on the way forward,” he said.

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