The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), has thrown its weight behind the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), to compel the Federal Government to pay its members hazard and inducement allowances.
NANS leadership had argued that the discrimination being used to undermine JOHESU would be counterproductive, especially now that the world was grappling with how to bring COVID-19 under control.
Mr Bamidele Akpan, NANS President, gave the backing during a solidarity visit to JOHESU’s headquarters on Wednesday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), recalls that the JOHESU’s leadership had proposed to embark on strike and are also expected to meet with Ministers of Health, on Wednesday, to iron out issues regarding the hazard allowance which the government pledged to pay to all health workers.
Akpan, who was represented by Mr Dominic Philips, NANS Vice President, described the visit as apt as it was meant to encourage them for their numerous contribution to the health sector especially at the critical time of the COVID-19.
According to him, “your contributions to the development and the health of the citizens of Nigeria cannot be over emphasised, especially at this critical time when we are faced with COVID-19.
“This Coronavirus has exposed our health sector; it reveals your yearnings for a long time which a lot of us did not take seriously until now.
“We did not take your cries, your quest for the development of the health system seriously until this critical time that this pandemic stood before us,” he said.
Akpan noted that COVID-19 had brought out the deplorable state of the health system from the primary healthcare centres to the tertiary health institutions across the country.
“With the rot in the health sector, your members have stood to see that they work in such a deplorable state and environment, without taking note of the fact that they are at risk of various diseases.
“The entire world has seen the risk the health workers are exposed to even before today.
“We deem it fit in the wisdom of NANS to pay you this visit and to tell you that over 80 million Nigerian students are behind you.
“We are fully aware of the fact that your union has been agitating the across board payment of hazard allowances.
“We are also aware of that and we know what is playing on in the health sector from whatever angle it is coming from.
“We, as an organization, are saying no to that particular agreement that is less than 50 per cent across board payment.
“If you desire us to match our armless battalion to the streets to tell the government that anything less than 50 per cent of the minimum wage as the hazard allowance is also not acceptable by Nigerian students, we will,” he said.
Akpan however, said there should be no form of discriminatory payment of the hazard allowance in the health sector as all were frontline officers amidst the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
He wondered why a particular section would take less and some others more.
“NANS leadership is saying, if you are a medical doctor, a cleaner in a hospital, a lab scientist, nurse, 50 per cent across board is very okay, ” he said.
Mr Joy-Josiah Biobelemoye, National President of JOHESU, lauded the students’ association for the show of concern toward the plight of joint health workers.
Biobelemoye warned that if appropriate steps were not taken, the health system in the country might collapse.
“Actually, we are very procedural, we do not pray for it to fail, the issue is a simple one and anybody that loves Nigeria may not want it to fail.
“But where the unthinkable happens, as procedural people, we’ll give a very short notice within the ambits of the law, then we will mobilise our people to prepare for a very pointed industrial action,” he said. (NAN)