The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has threatened to shut down the entire health sector of Abia over unpaid salary arrears.
Dr Isaiah Abali, the Chairman of NMA, in Abia, made this known during a protest organised by the association at the Government House on Thursday in Umuahia.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that more than 50 doctors were seen carrying placards with different inscriptions such as “Abia govt pay our salaries”, ” Abia doctors are starving “, Doctors lives matter”, among others.
NAN also reports that the leadership of the association had on Dec. 9, 2022, declared an indefinite strike after the government allegedly failed to respond to its 21-day ultimatum.
The Chairman said that the protest was organised to express their grievances over non-payment of salaries regularly and to state clearly that NMA was not affiliated to any political party.
Abali said that doctors in Abia State University Teaching Hospital(ABSUTH) and Hospital Management Board (HMB) were owed 25 and 13 months salary arrears, respectively.
Abali said that the association was prepared to take serious steps to ensure that the issue of non-payment of doctors’ salaries would be addressed.
He said: “We are resolute, even if it means closing the hospitals until the present government leaves office, we are ready.”
“It has been a game of giving excuses like ‘we can generate money to pay ourselves’, and ‘government does not have money.’
“Workers deserve to be paid their wages and the payment of the wages should not be politicised.
“If the government is saying ‘no-work-no-pay’, what about the work done without pay. Are you going to pay interest on it?
“I challenge the government to pay doctors and see if any further agitation will hold,” Abali added.
He urged the government to clear the unpaid salary arrears of doctors before enforcing the “no-work-no-pay” policy, adding that it would be wrong to use a blanket punishment for everyone.
Abali said that the association would not relent until its demands were met.
Also, Dr Daniel Ekeleme, the Secretary of the association, said that the current situation of non-payment of salaries had plunged doctors working in ABSUTH and HMB into untold hardship and depression.
“In a country that is experiencing serious brain drain of healthcare workers, the government should not be seen owing doctors.
“We took the sacrifice to stay back and it is appalling that this is happening to us in our homeland.
“We have begged and appealed to the state government to expedite action in addressing the issue.
“We call upon men of good will all over this country and beyond to prevail upon Abia government to pay us our salaries,” Ekeleme said.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Eze Chikamnayo, said that the government on different occasions authorised release of funds to restore regular salary payments.
Chikamnayo said that “just few days ago, government yet again provided N420 million, representing 3 months of the salary arrears for doctors in ABSUTH”.