President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja appealed to workers in the health sector to bear with his administration on their demands, saying the government is currently battling the challenges posed by coronavirus to the economy.
The president, who made the appeal when he received workers in the health sector on the platforms of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Healthcare Professionals Associations (AHPA) in the State House, said the government was, however, looking into their agitations with a view to resolving them.
“Your case is certainly receiving attention, but you must bear in mind the condition that the country is in now. Coronavirus is not improving matters. It is affecting what we very much depend on, the petroleum industry, and, therefore, revenue,” he said.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said Buhari also implored the teams to appeal to the senses of their members to demonstrate the spirit of patriotism in these trying times and continue to work for further development of the country.
“So, please try and help us with your people. Let us be patriotic, let us look at the ways and means of the government and appeal for restraint…
“We have to emphasise that it is very important we maintain cohesion together, because if we allow sentiments or popularity to overwhelm our reasoning faculties, we will be in trouble and it will be too late for us to adjust, so please bear with us,” he was quoted as saying.
According to the statement, Buhari used the opportunity to inform his guests about his administration’s successful drive for food sufficiency in the last four years, pointing out that such a move would pay off now with the drop in government revenue.
“We thank God. God is very sympathetic to us. The three previous rainy seasons were good. We had good foresight in getting fertiliser, making it available and we virtually achieved food security.
“We made good decisions, and we saved hundreds of millions of dollars on the importation of food. If not, we would have been in real trouble,” he added.
Shehu, who described JOHESU as an amalgam of five registered trade unions and AHPA, under the leadership of Mr. Biobelemoye Josiah, explained that the group visited the president over some of the contentious issues in the health sector and also to thank him for some of the positive developments.
“Notably, they appreciated President Buhari’s prompt release of funds for tackling Coronavirus; thanked him for assenting to the National Health Bill, which provides for a one percent consolidated fund for the health sector; and for rejecting the advice of stakeholders, who clamoured for the privatisation of the health sector, which would have deprived the masses access to affordable healthcare
“They also requested the president’s intervention in the adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS); the withheld April and May 2018 salaries of members; gazetting of the scheme of service for nurses; and restoration of teaching allowances among others,” the statement added.
The statement listed government officials at the meeting to include: the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.