When Medical doctors in Nigeria’s Kogi state resumed the strike they suspended on May 13, they accused the government of reneging on an earlier agreement with them. The workers are asking the government to pay outstanding salaries and arrears. The State Governor warned the Nigeria medical Association NMA not to “DECLARE WAR ON THE STATE”. The “act of war” appears to have no end in sight as both sides have dug in and the situation has instead degenerated to trading barbs.
The Kogi Government said on Monday it had no plan to sack the 163 medical doctors in its pay roll. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Saka Audu said in Lokoja that the those peddling the rumour were mischief makers. Audu said that, rather, the government would recruit 230 health personnel, to complement existing ones.
“The rumour of planned replacement of striking doctors is an erroneous impression emanating from trouble peddlers and mischief makers,’’ he said.
The Kogi chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) recently accused the government of planning to recruit fresh doctors to replace those on strike. The NMA Chairman, Dr Godwin Tijani, had in a statement alleged that Ministry of Health would conduct the recruitment on June 19, to replace doctors on strike.
However, the commissioner dismissed the statement as misleading.
“Not only do we find such an assertion preposterous and mischievous, but one wonders what anyone stands to gain from the spread of such rumour. Our drive is to ensure quality healthcare delivery for the people of Kogi; we will never be deterred by the criticisms of the critics and the mischief of trouble peddlers. A clear conscience fears no accusation,’’ Audu said.
The commissioner explained that the State Executive Council gave approval in January to recruit all categories of health personnel.
He listed those to be recruited to include Doctors, Pharmacists, Medical Laboratory Scientists, Pharmacy Technicians, Nurses, Health Record Officers and Technicians, as well as Medical Laboratory Assistants. Also Read; Kogi Government Has Paid Salaries To 95% of Workers, Says Gov. Bello
The renewed strike (“act of war”) announcement came in a communiqué issued at the end of an emergency congress in Lokoja, which was signed by the chairman and secretary of the association, Dr Tijani Godwin and Dr Zubair Kabiru, respectively.
The doctors allege that the government had failed to clear nine doctors after providing necessary documents as required by the screening committee, under-payment of salaries and arrears of doctors that have been paid, implementation of a new tax regime without commensurate promotion and stepping of doctors in the state civil service, and advertisement for employment of more doctors, despite the inability of the administration to implement adjusted Consolidation Medical Salary (CONMESS).
The NMA warned doctors who may decide to pick up employment with the state government to be cautious, noting that not all currently in its workforce have been so paid and that the government has not also implemented the adjusted CONMESS.
They demanded that state government should “retain and pay the arrears of all the doctors employed in 2015 as they have waited patiently while providing healthcare service in the state for over 15 months without salaries”.
NMA also want government to clear and pay the remaining nine doctors whose names did not appear on any list and that “the issues of underpayment of salaries and arrears should be corrected forthwith”.
The association called on the government to return the new tax regime to status quo, or promote doctors accordingly before implementation, just as they called for uniform taxation for all the doctors in the Kogi State Civil Service.