Doctors’ strike: Reps threaten to arrest health minister

nigeria minister of healthBy Umar Muhammad Puma

The House of Representatives has threatened to issue a warrant for the arrest of the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, over his refusal to appear before its Committee on Health, for a meeting to find ways of ending the on-going doctors’ nationwide strike.

Chairman, House Committee on Health, Rep. Godwin Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta), while briefing the House at plenary on the outcome of their meeting with the health stakeholders yesterday, said there were indications that the minister and his officials do not want the doctors’ strike to end any time soon.

“Our committee had held a partial meeting with stakeholders on Monday and has decided to reschedule it to yesterday morning, as Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; Head of Service, Alhaji Bukar Goni Aji and Director-General of the Budget

Office, Bright Okogu, were all absent and did not send any representative”, he said.

But at yesterday’s meeting which was scheduled for 10:am, the lawmakers waited up till about 11:30, but none of the officials turned up, with only the Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu, a representative of the SGF and chairman of the Salaries and Wages Commission, present.

Chukwu, who had attended Monday’s meeting, did not turn up for yesterday’s session and did not send any representative, a situation which angered the lawmakers.

According to Elumelu, the minister and the other government officials would be re-summoned, but that should he (Prof. Chukwu) fail, the House would invoke its constitutional powers to issue a warrant for his arrest.

The Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, directed that Chukwu should expeditiously attend to the committee, failing which the House would resort to other ways of forcing him to attend.

The earlier meeting between the House of Representatives Committee on Health and the executive of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to resolve contending issues with a view to ending the strike, ended in a deadlock.

This followed the insistence of the NMA that the strike must go on despite appeals by the lawmakers, led by Elumelu, to the doctors to call off their strike pending the outcome of on-going deliberations between them and the government.

The lawmakers appeal was turned down by the NMA executive, saying that they could not unilaterally call off the strike without first holding their emergency delegates meeting.

They insisted that their demand for ‘Relativity and Skipping’ be addressed, adding that their association is not ‘strike monger’, and was only acting based on the government’s failure to honour several agreements reached between both parties.

The association demanded for the payment of N13 billion out of which the sum of N9 billion is to bridge the discrepancies between basic salary for medical doctors and other health workers for year 2014, while the sum of N4 billion is for payment of other allowances for all medical and Health workers within the federal service.

The lawmakers, consequently, urged the federal government to include the sum of N6.7 billion required for the payment of one year relativity arrears in the supplementary budget that will be transmitted to the National Assembly.



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