Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Governors of the 36 states of the federation on the platform of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) have rejected planned imposition of the proposed health workers allowance tagged “hazard allowance” by the Federal Ministry of Health, saying instead, each state should be presented with general guidance to enable it negotiate with its health workers based on its ability to pay.
Recalled the federal government had last month disclosed that a total of 55,031 health workers in 35 hospitals and medical centres designated for COVID-19 have been paid special hazard allowances totalling N4,642,485,146.00.
The announcement had led to the suspension of the strike by National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).
The government had also paid N9 billion as premium for Group Life Insurance to all health workers.
The payment of COVID-19 special hazard inducement allowances the government had explained was based on four templates: 50 per cent of Consolidated Basic Salary to all workers in COVID-19 designated hospitals and centres; 40 per cent of Consolidated Basic Salary to health workers in non-COVID-19 designated centres and hospitals; 10 per cent of Consolidated Basic Salary to non-health professionals engaged in those centres; and 20 per cent of Consolidated Basic Salary special allowance to all health workers directly managing COVID-19 patients in Treatment and Isolation Centres.
The position of the governors was contained in a communique issued at the end of the virtual meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC), presiding over by President Yemi Osinbajo.
The chairman of the NEC adhoc committee interfacing with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ease the lockdown, and Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, speaking on the recommendations of the interim report committee said “the committee recommended that the Honorable Minister of Health should ensure the continuous provision of all essential health services in-order to ensure that people do not die from other diseases needlessly”.
Okowa noted that the major recommendation arising from the meeting is the proposed health workers allowance being planned by the Federal Ministry of Health. The ‘Hazard’ allowance should not be imposed on States but presented with general guidance to enable each State negotiate with its health workers based on its ability to pay.
Okowa’s Committee in its interim report also recommended “that there should be rapid testing, tracing, isolation and treatment, and the NCDC and PTF should provide each State with laboratory testing facilities and ensure effective sample collection”.
The committee also added that, “the Presidential Task Force (PTF) should provide the operating guidelines to the States to enable them domesticate same given their peculiarities, norms and traditions, especially in opening of markets, religious places and schools etc.”
The NEC meeting also resolved to have some State Governors join the membership of the Economic Sustainability Committee as the implementation of the Sustainability Plan proceeds.
According to Osinbajo, governors had made a presentation at the NEC on how the States can collaborate effectively with the Federal Government on the implementation of the recently approved N2.3 trillion stimulus programme.
The Governors welcomed the plan and committed to working with the government at the center.
According to the Vice President, two State Governors expected to join the Committee for the implementation phase of the plan, would be helpful and bring synergy.
Osinbajo added that state governments will also be actively involved in the process of executing projects in the plan, especially projects in the domains of respective States, in collaboration with other stakeholders and partners.
Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-rufai, who is also the Chairman of the NGF adhoc committee on the collaborative implementation of the NESP, assured that governors were committed to the successful implementation of the plan
He said: “In agriculture, each state is to make available 20 hectares of land for cultivation and with the contribution of lands from States, he added that governors will appreciate land clearance as an incentive.
“In Mass housing, NEC welcomes the plan to build 300,000 housing units across the country with an average of 10,000 homes per State,” El-rufai noted while also calling for a nationwide mortgage system to support the plan.
Other highlights at the 105th meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) which had several governors, ministers and heads of MDAs including the CBN Governor and the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, in attendance included the presentation of the 2021 to 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) by the Federal Ministry of Finance, State Budget and National Planning.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed also reported to council that the balances in the under listed accounts: Excess Crude Account (ECA) balance as at 7th July, 2020, $72,406,952.48; Stabilization Account Balance N40, 310,991,995.15; and Natural Resources Development Fund Account Balance, N131, 598,414,041.89.
There were also presentations on polio and COVID-19 pandemic.