The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), has accused Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, and his Health counterpart, Osagie Ehanire, of sabotaging President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to fix the country’s health sector.
Resident doctors in the country embarked on a nationwide indefinite strike last Thursday, paralyzing health services in parts of the country.
Professor Innocent Ujah, NMA President, who featured during a programme on Channels Television on Monday, asked the ministers to resign if they are tired of their jobs.
Ujah noted that the two ministers will further harm the health sector if retained in the system.
While speaking on issues that led to the current strike, the NMA president said the Federal Government is owing frontline health workers in the country nine months COVID-19 hazard allowance.
He slammed Ngige and Ehanire for being silent over lingering issues affecting doctors in Nigeria.
“In 1985, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) said that hospitals became mere consulting clinics. That statement still holds today. It is very sad that a lot of government functionaries are misinforming the system. I believe that some of them are actually sabotaging the efforts of Mr. President. Otherwise, how can we be going round in circles like this?
“These are things that have been on the drawing board for some time; agreements were signed and nothing happens once the industrial action is suspended. For the minister of Labour to say to the effect that Nigerian doctors are being paid so much money, and that in America and the United Kingdom, you have to pay to do your residency, I am very disappointed.
“That is a complete lie, and indeed it is a hate speech. I do not expect a very respected minister of Labour, former governor, and a former senator to make such statement because the statement would appear to be law when he makes them.
“By and large, I believe there are some people who want to sabotage the efforts of Mr. President. For such people, it is either they are tired or they are unwilling. The best way to respond to those issues is to probably quit because they are not telling the truth.
“The level of rot that we have in the system is so bad, and we have people like Chris Ngige saying what he said. What is the Federal Ministry of Health doing? They are quiet as if it doesn’t bother them. I expect the Federal Ministry of Health to respond appropriately to this.
“There was COVID-19, and doctors and other health workers went to the field to prosecute this war. The issue of hazard allowance came up and it was treated with levity, except for the intervention of the Honorable Speaker of the House of Representatives. This money that was pittance was paid for just three months, and that was all. Meanwhile, people are fighting to contain the covid-19 pandemic.
“As I am talking to you now, since June, nobody (doctors or health workers) has received any Hazard Allowance, and this is the period of war as far as health is concerned. My statement is that the functionaries of government are very unserious.
“House officers have been working since January; is there any reason why they should not be paid? These are people who work for 24 hours. Why should Nigerian doctors and other health workers not be covered with life insurance especially during the period of the pandemic?
“Four weeks ago, I advised the Federal Ministry of Health and Labour to address the issues of the resident doctors. We have been going round to find ways to resolve this without anybody knowing, and going behind the scenes – discussing, consulting and negotiating, but the truth is that it doesn’t appear that the functionaries of government are prepared to do anything. Otherwise, we shouldn’t come to this mess.
“I believe that it should have been settled a long time ago. Why is it that the functionaries of government – Minister of Labour and Employment, and the Minister of Health kept quiet until there was a strike action? Why should doctors not be paid? This is just purely administrative lapses,” he said.