Revised 2020 budget: FG earmarks N20bn for doctors’ hazard allowances
• As Gbajabiamila begs Resident Doctors to shelve planned nationwide strike
The Federal Government, on Tuesday, disclosed that the sum of N20 billion has been earmarked for payment of hazard allowance for the doctors in the revised 2020 budget submitted to the National Assembly.
Director-General of Budget Office of the Federation, Mr Ben Akabueze, disclosed this during the tripartite meeting which lasted for over three hours, held at the instance of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila with the view to averting the planned nationwide strike issued by the National Resident Doctors (NARD) over unpaid allowances and training.
In his brief remarks, Mr Akabueze added that adequate budgetary provision was provided for Life insurance of the Doctors.
In his intervention, the Speaker reiterated the resolve of the House leadership to ensure industrial harmony in various sectors of the nation’s economy, especially during the scourge of COVID-19 pandemic.
While addressing the stakeholders, NARD President, Dr Sokomba Aliyu, explained that the ultimatum to embark on strike next week Monday, was sequel to government’s inability to fulfil certain obligations as agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding.
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According to him, part of the issues in contention include outstanding payments on hazard allowance, arbitrary disengagement of 23 doctors at the University of Jos Teaching Hospital, non-provision of life insurance despite the death of some doctors from COVID-19, non-provision of personal protective equipment (PPEs), reduction of doctors’ salary by the Kaduna State government, doctors’ residency training, among others.
The Speaker also assured that the issue of hazard allowance was captured in the supplementary budget before the House.
While urging the Doctors to review its position, Hon Gbajabiamila urged the NARD leadership to tarry a while as government was working assiduously to meet their entitlements.
Hon Gbajabiamila also hinted that if need be, the House would come up with a law that would not only back the payment of hazard allowance but would also define the same for clarity.
“As a House, we’ll keep taking steps to avoid strikes. This meeting will give us the opportunity to holistically address the issues at stake. Let’s agree on one thing: that at this time, we can’t afford to allow our doctors go on strike. Let’s agree that their welfare is a priority,” he said.
He, however, noted that the House could not intervene in the issue of doctors in Kaduna State as it is not under its jurisdiction, saying that: “unfortunately, we can only deal with federal matters here. We can only be persuasive because there’s a structure in government.
“But all the other issues you raised, we will address them. We’ll see how we can talk to members from that state in the House to talk to the governor.”
The Speaker added that: “I want to appeal to the President of NARD and the association itself. My appeal is on humanitarian basis. You’re dealing with lives, so I appeal to you to suspend the strike. I’m making this appeal because of your professional calling. You’re dealing with lives.
“I want you to understand that government is doing its best to meet your entitlement.”
Hon Gbajabiamila also assured that the resident doctors’ training would be captured in the 2021 budget whether or not it is included in the ministry’s budget.
Speaking earlier, the Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunmibe Mamora, said an agreement was reached at a meeting attended by all stakeholders including NARD leadership that payment would be made and that all other issues would be addressed.