Osun doctors protest non-payment of salaries; Govt. says action ‘blackmail’

Rauf Aregbesola, Governor of Osun State
Rauf Aregbesola, Governor of Osun State

Members of the Nigerian Medical Association, Osun State Chapter, on Tuesday besieged the Osun State House of Assembly complex to protest the failure of the state government to pay their salaries in the last four months.

The doctors have been on strike for four months and have vowed to continue the strike until their demands are met.

The placard-carrying doctors in their numbers marched from the popular OSAMDO house to the state House of Assembly complex, where they were received by the lawmakers, led by the deputy speaker of the house.

The doctors expressed worries that the lawmakers had failed to intervene since the crisis started.

The NMA State Chairman, Suraj Ogunyemi, lamented the level of hardship faced by the doctors due to the non-payment of their salaries since September 2015, saying private medical practitioners would be forced to join the strike, if nothing was done.

According to him, NMA Osun was constrained to embark on a three-day sympathy strike commencing on Wednesday.

He noted that all doctors working with the Federal Teaching Hospitals in the state, would be involved in the strike action.

Addressing the protesters,the Deputy Speaker of the House, Akintunde Adegboye, appealed to the doctors to be patient, promising that the house would look into the matter.

He called on the executive members of the NMA to come for dialogue on Wednesday so as to find a solution to the problem.

Government reacts

Meanwhile, the Osun State government on Tuesday described as “mere blackmail” the protests by the striking members of the Nigerian Medical Association in the state.

It said it had made sufficient concession for the doctors to shift grounds and return to work.

A statement by the Director of the Bureau of Communication and Strategy in the Office of the Governor, Semiu Okanlawon, said Nigerians should objectively examine the issues and the demands of the doctors to see whether they were reasonable in the light of current economic realities and how they affect Osun State.

The statement said the doctors were demanding “the impossible” and that the state under Governor Rauf Aregbesola had offered “the best condition of service” to all its workers including the doctors before the current financial challenges befell the entire country.

“The only way labour can do without the distrust of government is by setting up a committee with the labour constituting half of the composition and government half and a neutral person jointly accepted by us to be the head of the committee to be reviewing all the revenues and using the reality of the revenue to appropriate or apportion allocation to strategic and key areas of government, which is wages and running the government,” the statement said.

“We agreed and we are running government absolutely on that basis. That agreement came in August and in September; the doctors said they were not in any way bound by that agreement.

“There was no way we could back down because, in the first instance, other professionals had accepted the agreement reached with labour.”

It said the doctors had remained “recalcitrant” despite all entreaties by leading lights of the medical profession.

“They refused the popular agreement, what should government do? How can we reverse a decision accented to and agreed with by over 39,000 workers because about 200 people are dissatisfied,” it said.

The government accused the doctors of abandoning their work since the 28 of September 2015, even though they were paid for that month.

“By December, we told them they should resume work and they have remained adamant that they want to earn what we cannot afford,” the statement said.

“In the first instance, except in communist country, you cannot force anybody to work, you can’t drag workers to work under democracy.

“It is either you want to work or you don’t want to work. But if you cannot take what we are offering and what other workers including Doctors in Local government areas, including consultants at the state level are taking, we cannot afford it.”

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