Health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and the Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) have accepted the increase in the hazard allowance approved by the federal government.
However, the unions appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to include the adjusted Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) in the 2022 appropriation bill before its passage.
The health workers said any attempt to do otherwise could be met with stiff resistance.
JOHESU Chairman, Biobelemoye Josiah, who spoke on a national television network monitored in Abuja on Monday, said though the new hazard allowance was not exactly what they wanted, the workers have accepted it in the meantime.
On the adjustments made to the hazard allowance, Josiah said the unions had accepted the explanation offered by the federal government.
“As for the approval of the hazard allowance it is not where we wanted to be but as far as we are concerned government pleaded that that is what they can afford for now. Inasmuch as we would have loved it to be higher than what we asked for, we have decided to give peace a chance and see how it is implemented.
“Government has issued a circular and we will abide by it for now but where the government listens to any agitation and increases by one kobo, which must be given to us too. Where government wish to take our high level of understanding for granted, we will certainly tell them that it is not weakness,” he said.
He, however, warned that any attempt to favour one union against the other would be resisted.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and its subunit, the National Association Resident Doctors (NARD) had earlier expressed reservations over the new increment in hazard allowance ranging from N5000 to N15,000, N32,000 and N34, 000 for various categories of health workers.
The two bodies had said that what the federal government did was not in line with the terms of collective bargaining which they all surrendered to during negotiations.
He also called for a balance in the leadership of the Health Ministry, saying this would benefit the country.
On the issue of adjustment of CONHESS salary structure, Josiah warned that the unions would not guarantee industrial harmony in the health sector if the president fails to include the adjusted salary structure.
“We are expecting that Mr. President will do us well because as a union we have yielded to his request that we should keep the health sector strike free for the period. We have done our part, we expect that no matter the games that the Federal Ministry of Health is playing by trying to deny us our own right, the president has the power to direct that the committee’s job should be included in the budget before he signs it.
“I want to use this opportunity to call on Nigerians to plead on our behalf because we have been very patient, we have been very patriotic and we will not want a situation where all the effort we have put to ensure that there is peace in the health sector to waste because if it is not put into the budget, next year – a few days from now, which when we go into next year, certainly, the health sector will not be as peaceful as we have tried to keep it.
“If they don’t put the adjusted CONHESS into the budget then they should be ready for us,” the JOHESU leader said.
Josiah further said that the unions were aware that there was a provision of N80 billion made to take care of the salary adjustment for health workers.
He said it would be wrong for the Federal Ministry of Health to “divert” the funds for other purposes.
“At the peak of our agitation the office of the Chief of Staff to the President also intervened. We are aware that there was a provision of N80 billion made to take care of adjustment of salaries. It is our strong belief that even if they have not specifically stated that this amount is for CONHESS adjustment, I think there is a provision made already.
“Our money from what the committee has worked out is not beyond that N80 billion so for the president who appealed to us and who we have also listened to, we have kept our deal; we have kept our gunpowder dry. We have not shot anyone so the president should do us that favour by giving us that level of love that we have shown.
“We believe that there is provision already imputed in the budget but the federal ministry of health in its well – celebrated bias would want to say the money is not meant for us so that they can favour those who they want to favour,” he said.
Josiah added: “If any government wants a proper health system, a developed health system in this country we should change from this leadership where they put medical doctors at the helm of affair. Let us go back to what took us to be among the best in the commonwealth. Hospitals’ administrators should take charge so that there will be fairness and neutrality in handling hospital affairs for all professional groups.
“Today, a matter that ought to have been handled by the HR in the federal Ministry of Health it is the Directorate of Hospital Services that is handling it and that is headed by medical doctors that is why there is huge bias being displayed every now and then and that is why since 1985 the health system has dropped from its high point down to where we are and if we must talk about international best practices then we must rejig the leadership.
“Right from the beginning of this administration we asked that the three top personnel should not come from one profession. The minister and minister of state should not come from one profession and the permanent secretary. For now that has not been heeded and the country is suffering for that,” he said.