By Ismaila Chafe
Abuja -The Federal Government has released the sum of N4.5 billion to 31 Federal Teaching and Medical Centres across the country, and earmarked N9billion for payment of insurance claims.
Labour and Employment Minister, Dr Chris Ngige, announced this when he alongside Health Minister, Dr Osagie Ehanire, briefed State House correspondents at the end of a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
The meeting took place at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Ngige disclosed that the N4.5billion covered payment of hazard and inducement allowances for the months of April and May while fresh payment for June would soon be effected.
He explained that the payment was in fulfillment of part of the demands of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD), who are currently on nationwide industrial action.
The minister, therefore, expressed optimism that the strike action embarked upon by the NARD would be called off as the federal government had met parts of their demands, substantially.
“Just this morning, before we went to see Mr President, the Ministry of Finance reported that as at this morning, 3a.m, it has paid the allowances for hazard and inducement to 31 Teaching Hospitals, Federal Medical Centres and Specialist Hospitals of the federal government service.
“They have expended close to N4.5 billion in the payment because, we are paying them the arrears of April and May. The payment for June will also be done immediately these ones are sorted out.
“Again, it’s important to report to you that in consonance with what he’s (Osagie Ehanire) saying, we have arranged a meeting for them to speak to the Nigerian Governors’ Forum because you don’t mix apples and oranges.
“The issue of health is on the concurrent list, so the federal government will do its own and the state governments will be expected to do their own.
“Some of their grievances border on what they feel the state governments have not done.”
Ngige further disclosed that the federal government had earmarked N9 billion for immediate payment as Group Life Insurance to workers including health and medical personnel who lost their lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Also there was evidence that the insurance premium had been paid.
“In fact N9billion has been spent by the federal government to pay for insurance not only for health workers this time but every worker in the public service of the federation.
“This is to enable any other health worker who loses his live as a result of the COVID-19 to benefit from the insurance scheme as the family can make claims from the Group Life Insurance as enshrined in the Pension Acts.
“So, this is the situation and as of now we are still in dialogue with them; we are still talking to them,’’ he said
In his contribution, Ehanire expressed the hope that the doctors would call off the strike as federal government was doing all it could to restore sanity in the nation’s health sector.
He said: “We hope that there is a solution in sight; what we have done is to brief the President of the country, who as we all know has the final responsibility for everything that goes on in government.
“Those of us who are ministers administer our ministries and have to report to him periodically.
“In this particular case, it has been important to report to him how things have been because of the strike action of resident doctors.
“We have to report to him the implications and the possible consequences of such a strike action.
“He listened to us carefully, of course he is not happy that it has come this way and we all hope that it would be resolved after all the demands that were made have been resolved.
“The Minister of Labour and Employment has listed those demands and how all of them have been fulfilled except those of them which are not within our ambit.’’(NAN)