The Federal Government has been warned not to accede to the demands of a pay raise by doctors.
The call may affect the current doctors’ request for better pay, which has culminated into their current strike.
Speaking at a stakeholders meeting organised by members of the House Committee on Health on Monday at the National Assembly complex, , the Director- General of the Budget Office, Bright Okogu, urged caution in acceding to the pay rise demands by doctors under the aegis of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).
He disclosed that the wages of workers under the payroll of the Federal Government have hit N1.8 trillion out of the N4.6 trillion budgeted for the nation in 2014.
Okogu, who was put under pressure by the Ndudi Elumelu led House Committee on Health which is exploring means to resolve the face-off between doctors and government amicably, remarked that the situation was further compounded when the deficit financing aspect of the budget are deducted.
He contended that monies expended on wages have eaten deeply into the public investment aspect of the budget that not much is left to fix the nation’s comatose infrastructure under the present circumstance.
He put the figure of those who have the privilege to be on the government payroll at 1.2 million workers, adding that the paltry figure was clearly disproportionate to the estimated 170 million population of Nigerians in dire need of basic amenities on daily basis.
At the occasion attended top government functionaries like the Minister of State for Health, Dr Khaliru Alhassan, and the Executive Secretary of the Salaries and Wages Commission, Chike Ogbechie, the budget chief stated that if nothing is done to curtail the increasing wage bill of the nation, ongoing quest by the government to offer employment opportunities in the public sector for thousands of unemployed graduates from the nation’s tertiary institutions could be compromised.
He recalled that as at 2009 when the government agreed to raise the wages of members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the nation’s wage bill almost doubled as it shot up from N857 billion to N1.8 trillion.
Saying there was the need for caution in acceding to the demands of a pay rise of the striking doctors, he maintained that competitive wage demands would not be in the best interest of the country.
The budget chief further stated that there are feelers that other stakeholders in the health sector like nurses, midwives pharmacists, and laboratory technologists are already warming up to embark on a nationwide strike the moment government accedes to pay striking doctors their outstanding allowances put at about N13 billion and then sustain their new pay package.
Noting that there was the need for a public and private sector partnership in the management of the affairs of the health sector, he said it behooves on players to explore a sectoral approach in redressing the problems inherent in the sector. – Guardian.