The Lagos State Government has seized the September salaries of medical doctors in the State over a nationwide strike by the Nigerian Association (NMA) in July. The punitive seizure is in addition to their August salaries it had similarly held on to, citing their participation in the last nationwide strike.
The NMA embarked on the nationwide strike after they said talks with the government failed over long standing industrial issues. During their strike, the Federal Government also announced the suspension of Residency Training in the health sector, consequent upon which it sacked all the Resident Doctors. The crisis left public health centers shut for weeks.
The sacked doctors were recalled after a series of reconciliation meetings between the doctors, stakeholders and Federal Government.
Following their resumption of work, the doctors in Lagos State announced they had been victimized by the government, which had pounced on their salaries for the month of August over the strike.
In addition to that they have now found their September salaries seized, although the doctors stress they worked in the month. Medical sources said the seizure is the State's ‘retrieval’ of their July salaries which it believed it had paid in error while their strike was on.
Sources in Lagos State insisted that the Government is has only operated its "no work no pay" policy. But reacting to the seizure, the doctors pointed out that the policy has seems only and always to apply to them, but not to other employees' unions.
Addressing a Press Conference on Sunday, the chairman of the NMA in Lagos State, Doctor Tope Ojo cited examples of ASUP, ASUU, COEASU and other employees' unions including the employees' union in the Joint Health Sector (JOHESU), who were paid regardless of their strike actions.
Speaking further to SaharaReporters on the Lagos Health Sector crisis, executives of the Medical Doctors' Guild said the Lagos State may be specifically targeting Doctors with its "no work no pay" policy.
One source recalled the State used the same policy on them in May 2012, and that even today, they are yet to receive salary for that month two years ago despite several letters written to the government. In that May 2012 Lagos Health crisis, 788 Doctors were sacked by the State.
"Even though they told us since 2012 that they were working with the no-work-no-pay policy, they paid other unions that went on strike since then", the doctors said.
During Sunday’s press briefing Dr. Ojo drew a parallel with the ASUU strike, noting that although it lasted forover six months, the teachers were paid, and that the doctors’ strike was nothing near six months.
Dr. Ojo further also noted that despite the strike, the doctors partnered with all agencies of both the Federal and State governments during the Ebola virus outbreak to contain its spread.
"At first, we thought Lagos State was trying to make another country from Nigeria by creating different rules from those of Federal Government, but it's appearing again that it is deliberately targeting the medical doctors," one doctor reflected.