Chris Ngige, minister of labour, says doctors in the country are being paid N5,000 as hazard allowance because they have not called for a review of the amount.
The doctors had embarked on an indefinite strike on April 1, owing to the federal government’s failure to pay their owed allowances and salaries.
Speaking during an NTA programme on Wednesday, the minister said the last review of the hazard allowance was done in 2009.
“The hazard allowance for medical doctors came on board in 1991 under circular 1 of 1991. There were three of us that wrote that circular. I was there as deputy director,” he said.
“The director constituted us into a committee on this because the minister then was waiting for this document.
“That was when your hazard came and since then the other medical persons agitated to get into that N5,000 — nurses, midwives, radiologist — people started coming into that N5,000 from that 1991, implementation started in 1992.
“The last group of people that came in I think was in 2009. That was when it was reviewed for everybody to have N5,000.
“NMA because they are the parent body abdicated their responsibilities and ran away because other people have come into N5,000. They did not make any move now to ask for that allowance to be reviewed and adjusted. They are now sharing it with other people.”
Ngige said he was not aware that the doctors were still being paid N5,000 as hazard allowance until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I didn’t even know it was still N5,000 until we started COVID and when I mentioned it in the economic sustainability committee, both the minister of finance and the vice-president said N,5000 for somebody working in a health sector? It is criminal. The vice-president is a lawyer, finance minister is an accountant,” he said.
“They told me: you have to do something. Please we leave it to you. I convened the meeting immediately in my house under COVID and we gave them a special COVID hazard allowance that was up to 1,000 percent of N5,000.
“Some people went home for the three months with N600,000, that is N200,000 a month, some N300,000. My professor friend and classmate told me it was hazard that protected him through ASUU strike, that he got N350,000 every month.
“So government paid N32 billion for three months. What was in the COVID budget for it was N20 billion. We started paying and we couldn’t go round, and I had to make a special case, fought in the economic sustainability committee because there is no money and minister of finance had to go outside the COVID budget of N500 billion to get another N12 billion for the payment. That is N32 billion.”
Meanwhile, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) president, who also featured on the programme, said the federal government has not shown sincerity in honouring the memorandum of action (MoA) it signed with the union.