Economy can’t recover with poorly paid workers- Labour leader

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  • As Minister suspends eight more NHIS top officials, HMOs tackle Yusuf

A labour leader, Mr Isa Aremu, on Monday appealed to the Federal Government to constitute a national minimum wage review committee without delay to alleviate workers’ suffering.

”There is no way the economy can recover with poorly paid workers,’’ Aremu, General Secretary, National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, said.

He spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

The Federal Government had on May 23 said that it would set up a 29- member committee to review the minimum wage.

The Trade Union Congress and the Nigeria Labour Congress have been agitating for increase in minimum wage from N18,000 to N56,000.

According to Aremu, there is no need for delaying constitution of the committee since it has been approved by the Federal Executive Council.

He said that increase in the wage should not be tied to increase in government revenue.

”Increase in wage is a matter of law and not based on government revenue generation.

“It is long overdue; our patience is running out. We have already lost two years.

”We hope the organised labour will not resort to industrial action. The government should avoid this.

”Previously, there was no increase in wage without a nationwide strike, and strike is not healthy for anybody. We have enough problem in the economy,” Aremu said.

He said that the payment of a correct wage at the right time was a major way to economic recovery.

He, however, commended Acting President Yemi Osibanjo for giving an executive order on ease of doing business.

Aremu said that the government’s decision would improve investment and develop the economy.

In the meantime, the Federal Ministry of Health, on Monday, announced the suspension of eight officials of the National Health Insurance Scheme following more facts uncovered by the committee set up by the minister to investigate the suspended NHIS Executive Secretary, Prof. Usman Yusuf.

It was learnt that some of the suspended officials also had pending petitions written against them dating back to 2015.

The ministry, in a statement by the Director of Media and Public Affairs, Mrs. Boade Akinola, said the General Manager and Zonal Coordinator (South-South) of the NHIS, Mr. Olufemi Akingbade, was one of the suspended persons.

Akingbade was accused of fraud while he was in charge of the ICT Department and was indicted by security agencies but was never charged.

Others suspended by the ministry are General Manager (Finance), Mr. John Okon; General Manager (Human Resources and Administration) Mr. Yusuf Fatika; Assistant General Manager in charge of Audit, Mr. Shehu Adamu; and Assistant General Manager, Head Insurance, Mr. Vincent Mamdam.

The Senior Assistant Officer, Marketing, Mr. Safiyanu Attah; Senior Manager, Contribution Management, Owen Udo-Udoma; and Mr. Innocent Abbah who is the Senior Assistant Officer, Planning Research and Monitoring, were also suspended.

The statement added, “In furtherance of the activities of the investigative panel of inquiry and the desire to have an uninterrupted and robust investigation of all petitions at the NHIS, including security reports on maladministration and mismanagement by officials of the agency, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has approved the suspensions.”

Also on Monday, the Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria challenged the suspended executive secretary to expose any of its members that was corrupt.

The National Publicity Secretary of HMCAN, Mr. Lekan Ewenla, who stated this in an interview with journalists in Abuja, attributed the crisis in the NHIS to regulation failure.

He absolved members of HMCAN, which is an umbrella body of health maintenance organisations, of corruption.

Ewenla stated, “There is no established case of corruption against any HMO by the suspended executive secretary. Now that he has been suspended for three months, he should come out with facts and figures of any HMO that is found corrupt.”

The national publicity secretary said 90 per cent of the N351bn, which Yusuf said was paid to the HMOs, went to hospitals, adding that if enrollees were treated shabbily, it was due to the failure of the regulator (the NHIS).

He said the NHIS had failed to embark on systematic redistribution of enrollees from teaching hospitals to primary facilities with lower volume of enrollees.

Additional report from Punch

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