President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the payment of health workers whose salaries were withheld when they embarked on strike.
Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, disclosed this on Thursday while speaking to journalists after a meeting with the president at the state house in Abuja.
The development comes months after Buhari promised that the salary arrears of health workers would be cleared, following strike actions embarked upon by health workers.
Speaking when he met with representatives of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in September, Buhari had urged the resident doctors who were on strike at the time — the NMA and JOHESU had also threatened to stop work — to reconsider their action.
“Embarking on industrial action at this time when Nigerians need you most is not the best action to take, no matter the grievances. This administration has a good track record of paying all debts owed to government workers, pensioners and contractors and we have even revisited debts left by past administrations, once due verification is done. Debts genuinely owed health workers will be settled,” the president had said.
According to Ngige, Buhari has directed the ministry of finance, budget and national planning to effect the payment of doctors, nurses and other health workers for the period they were on strike in 2018 and 2021.
“Mr. President has approved last week and I have the authority and letter directing the minister of finance to release the funds of the resident doctors for September and October 2021, which was seized in conformity with the law,” he said.
“In the same vein, the approval also covers members of the JOHESU who went on strike in 2018 for three months. After the first month, after March when they couldn’t come back, we asked that their pay be suspended. This is in tandem with the ILO principles at work. You have a right to strike, but the employer has a right to stop your remuneration and if possible, use it to keep his enterprise going by taking new hands, where possible, especially in essential services.
“So, that same money for 2018 April and May, Mr. President has again approved that the finance minister refunds or re-imburse, on compassionate grounds, those payments.
“This is predicated on the grounds that this group of workers has been showing a lot of dedication and concern to the COVID pandemic and that their hazard allowance for 2021 had remained what it was before.”