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Governor Bello: Countdown to the 21-day ultimatum has already begun!

By paul john
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Your Excellency,
It was recently reported that you authorised the release of 2 billion naira as part of the salaries owed past political office holders. I was surprised at what informed your decision in a state where my distinguished colleagues are crying to high heavens for their own salaries. In the scale of preference, which one is preeminent, paying medical doctors who are still in active service to your state, their salaries or paying past political office holders who in one way or the other contributed to non-payment of some doctors in your state? After several months of the so-called verification exercise, few of my colleagues in your state were paid and significant number of them are either underpaid or yet to be paid. It all started as a drama, one month passed and many months finally passed without my colleagues being paid their salaries.

Kogi state currently is very important to us because our amiable national president hails from the state. It will be undermining his efforts if such ugly incident occurs in his own state, even when he is not practising in the state. This reminds me the experience our lord Jesus had in Capernaum when the residents asked him to repeat the miracles he had been performing in other places .Our amiable national NMA president has in less than one year in office achieved so much. He and other members of our National Officers’ Committee have in fact performed creditably well and I pray that this matter will not make mischief makers say to him; Physician, heal thy state.

The Kogi State chapter of Nigerian Medical Association(NMA) recently issued a 21-day ultimatum after which they will embark on strike. As I perused the communiqué signed by the Kogi State NMA chairman and his secretary, I shed tears because Dr Magnus C. Ogaraku, the Kogi state NMA chairman, I know is a peace loving senior colleague and he and his executive must have been pushed to the wall before that resolution was reached. I wondered how my noble profession has been dragged in the mud by the political class. My colleagues in your state are only demanding their rights. This 21-day ultimatum seems to be the last resort after Kogi State NMA had explored all means to peacefully resolve this matter. This recent decision by the Emergency Congress of the Kogi State NMA was informed by the following painful observations:

  1. The non-payment of 10 Medical officers employed on the 13th October 2015 to Kogi State University Teaching Hospital, Anyigba, while their counterparts in the ministry of Justice and Kogi State Specialist Hospital are receiving their regular salaries;
  2. The non-payment of 5consultants in Kogi State University Teaching Hospital since October 2015 till date;
  3. The non-payment of 4 Chief Medical Officers, 2 Senior Medical Officers and a consultant working with the Kogi state Hospitals’ Management Board and One medical Officer working with the state Ministry of Health.
  4. The gross underpayment and illegal deductions from the salaries of some medical officers working with the Kogi state government.
  5. The premature, selective and illegal application of no-work-no-pay rule to some members of the ARD, Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja in less than 49 days(5/8-23/9/2016)of commencement of strike action.
  6. The obnoxious, inhuman, forceful and wicked imposition of levies, taxes, rates, rents, duties on registered private hospitals in Kogi state, while refusing to empower the office of the Director of Medical Services (DMS)/NMA monitoring committee with utility vehicle and law enforcement agents to fight quackery thereby stifling legitimate and law abiding citizens but, encouraging quackery to thrive in Kogi state.

In view of the first issue, which bothers on the non-payment of 10 Medical officers employed on the 13th October 2015 to Kogi State University Teaching Hospital, Anyigba, while their counterparts in the ministry of Justice and Kogi State Specialist Hospital are receiving their regular salaries, one would wonder Your Excellency, how your administration plans to key into the anti-corruption slogan of your national party with the non-payment of 10 medical officers for about 16 months of active service?

As to the second issue which bothers on the non-payment of 5 consultants in Kogi State University Teaching Hospital since October 2015 till date, do you realise that it is now 16 months since these consultants who are specialists in different areas of medicine were left with no salaries? Can this type of thing happen in the Judiciary? That, of course, cannot happen to any member of the judiciary because all political class is aware that respect of the judiciary is the beginning of wisdom. Thus, to treat medical consultants in this manner is to say the least very embarrassing and an affront to the entire medical practice in Nigeria. If we want to compare these medical consultants with their counterparts in the judiciary, we should be comparing them with High court and Appellate court judges/justices not magistrates. I do not wish to talk about the police orderlies, free house and car-schemes et cetera given to these judges/justices, all I am saying is that you should pay my senior colleagues their rightful salaries.

As to the non-payment of 4 Chief Medical Officers, 2 Senior Medical Officers and a consultant, working with the Kogi State Hospitals’ Management Board and another medical officer working with the state Ministry of Health, it is a shame and an embarrassment to our noble profession that your administration had to let things degenerate to this level. How does your administration want my colleagues to discharge their duties professionally and efficiently if your administration cannot respect the medical profession?

In this recession, it is not the salaries of my distinguished colleagues that will be used to correct budgetary deficits by your administration; rather efforts should be made to cut down on such frivolous expenses such as carnivals, travels, entertainments et cetera. Thus, the gross underpayment and illegal deductions from the salaries of some medical officers working with the Kogi state government as well as other sundry issues already mentioned contravene the Labour Law. Such actions are only permitted when striking workers exceed 100 days.

Concerning illegal levies et cetera, I will plead with you to visit Rivers State to see how Governor Nyesom Wike resolved such ugly experience against private hospitals’ owners. It is still illegal to double-tax an individual or an organisation. The leadership of NMA should immediately be summoned with officials from the state Internally-Generated Revenue Services in order to agree on a harmonised fee for private hospitals’ owners. Better still the government can provide tax holiday to these private doctors as an incentive to make them put in their best into the state. There is no better way to help our infant hospitals grow if not by granting them tax holiday or at least reducing the amount they are required to pay as tax. The heavy taxation currently experienced in Kogi State especially among medical doctors is unacceptable.

It is also funny that our political class patronise foreign hospitals without knowing that most of the hospitals are either privately owned or owned by the church. Those foreign hospitals would not have grown to their present statuses if their respective governments had taxied them heavily at their incipient stages. I once again invite you to visit Rivers State to see what Governor Wike did for Rivers State private hospitals’ owners. He did not only resolve the issue of double taxation, he went ahead to grant loans to private hospitals’ owners without interest. You heard me well, without interest I said. The government will be paying the interests for loans giving to the private hospitals.

To this end, I urge you to personally visit some of the private hospitals in your state ; you will agree with me that it is your government that will be paying them and not the other way round. The lives of patients in your state are regularly saved by these private hospitals being hunted by the officials of the Kogi state Internally-generated Revenue Services. If you stay in your office and allow your aides (who may at times be sycophantic in order to retain their posts) to keep telling you what is happening in the state, they will always tell you what you want to hear. Many of these private hospitals cannot pay their employees or pay their house rents, et cetera. Many do not have diagnostic medical equipment; yet, your government is devising a way to tax them more so that many of them will collapse to give way to quackery in the state.

Governor Wike personally visited some private hospitals in Rivers State before arriving at his decision. The day he had a meeting with doctors he told us why he decided to give loans to private hospitals. He said that at times somebody may go to a hospital, but may be scared by how dirty the curtain in the hospital looks even when there are medical experts who can manage such a person’s case efficiently in the said hospital. In this time of self-inflicted recession, our political class should not increase the pool of unemployed citizens by bringing up policies that will collapse more hospitals. I may not say much concerning not empowering the team that will fight quackery in your state because for now the state belongs to you. If you want to be remembered as a governor that is in support or against quackery that is up to you; all I am saying is that you should pay my colleagues in your state their legitimate salaries and allowances. These people deserve their due. Thanks

Dr Paul John
Port Harcourt, Rivers state,[email protected],08083658038