Buhari-led Government Approves Additional N8.9bn COVID-19 Allowance For Medical Workers

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A photo collage of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) logo and Nigeria's Minister of Labour and Productivity, Sen. Chris Ngige. Photo - Channels Television.
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The Federal 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.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, during the meeting between the Federal Government and the Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) where a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by both parties on Wednesday in Abuja.

NARD, which had embarked on a total and an indefinite strike in all Federal and State hospitals in the country demands payment of 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.

The demands by the association also include 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.

According to the Minister of Labour, payment of Special Hazard and Inducement Allowance has been concluded.

Ngige stated that the meeting was satisfied that the N20 billion already appropriated in 2020 COVID-19 budget has been exhausted.

He said the meeting, therefore, 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 explained that the approval has been cash backed and the mandate sent to the Central Bank of Nigeria for payments to start with effect from Sept. 9, bringing the total disbursement to about N288 billion.

For the review of a Permanent Hazard Allowance for Health Workers, Ngige noted that discussion would commence after consultation with all stakeholders in the health sector.

Based on the principles of ability to pay, this would cover all health workers in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and that the meeting would be convened as soon as possible in that regards, Ngige said.

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

He noted that government had paid the total sum of N9.3 billion (Nine billion, Three Hundred Million Naira) to Insurance Companies for Life Group Insurance and payment of death benefits for Health Workers and for the payment of death-in-service benefit to next of kin/beneficiaries.

Ngige added that the enrollment for the Group Life Insurance would be by the submission of nominal rolls by the various Health Institutions, which NARD had been mandated at previous meeting to accomplish.

Also decided at the meeting was that NARD should submit copies of claims already made to the Insurance Companies through the hospitals to the Ministry of Health for onward transmission to the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation that would ensure that the Insurance Companies pay the claims, adding that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment should also be copied in that regards.

Pertaining to the Universal implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act in all Federal and State Hospitals, the Minister said the 2020 Appropriation Act was revised due to COVID-19 pandemic.

He explained further 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 is therefore ongoing and is expected that this process and cash backing would be through in two weeks.

For the payment of outstanding 2014, 2015, and 2016 arrears, the meeting recalled that it had been agreed that the issue will be further discussed post COVID-19 and therefore, no agreement was breached.

The issue of Consequential Adjustment of the National Minimum Wage was also discussed as government promised to pay all owed arrears to members of the association including those 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.

However, the minister noted that parties agreed to the autonomy of states within the Federation, and as such, the issue of domestication of the Residency Training Act will be at the prerogative of State Governments.

According to him, 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.

He also noted that on the issue Health Workers in the Medical Centres attached to Universities that the meeting agreed that workers had been tied with the ongoing strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and negotiations concerning them would be on a different platform involving Federal Ministry of Education.

“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.

While giving his view of the meeting, NARD National President
Dr Sokomba Aliyu, 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.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that government agencies present at the meeting were representatives from Ministry of Health, Finance, Budget and National Planning and National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.