On January 12, 2023, medical doctors in Abia State barricaded the entrance gate to Abia Government House, Umuahia, to protest 24-month salary arrears owed to medical and non-medical staff of Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH). The doctors who came out were also protesting 13-months in arrears owed to doctors and other members of staff of Health Management Board. Doctors from different parts of the state converged at the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, before proceeding to the Government House Gate while chanting solidarity songs as they marched on the road.
The personnel also carried placards with different inscriptions, such as “Doctors’ lives matter,” “Our salary is our entitlement,” “2 years without salary ‘no be jokes’,” “Man’s inhumanity to man,” among other inscriptions. The Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Abia State Chapter, Dr. Isaiah Abali, ventilated the grievances of the protesting doctors at the entrance gate of the Government House. He said doctors whom the State Government had employed were passing through misery following multitude of months of unpaid wages.
Daily needs are not being met by doctors in the state.
Dr. Abali condemned the government’s actions as it affected the condition of the affected doctors. He said many of them can no longer meet their daily needs. He also expressed sadness over the State Government’s inability to clear the backlog of salary arrears of doctors. He said that the protest had no political undertones whatsoever and asked the government to stop giving excuses but clear the outstanding arrears.
The Secretary of NMA, Dr. Daniel Ekeleme, narrated the bitter experiences of some doctors in the hands of their landlords because they were unable to renew their house rents. He said that landlords no longer accept to lease their houses to Abia doctors because they could not pay the rent anymore. He added that some of the doctors can no longer pay their children’s school fees and feeding has become a big challenge because Abia State Government has refused to pay their salary.
Public office holders are paid with jumbo allowances but doctors are owed.
He said that Abia State doctors are the least paid in the country and noted that Abia is the only state where doctors are owed for years. “We have begged. We have made appeals, but they fell on deaf ears. Now we are here so the world can hear us,” he said. Dr. Ekeleme said that doctors are dying in Abia because of unpaid salaries. He said next time they have a protest like this, the doctors will come with the bodies of some of their members who have died as a result of hardship.
A Consultant Hematologist at ABSUTH, Dr. Chika Uche, lends her voice to the issue. She said that it was wickedness for the Government which “receives allocation every month” to pay political office holders with jumbo allowances but owe workers who earn peanuts. She noted that some of the staff members of the affected institutions include cleaners and other non-medical staff with meagre pay. She described the adamancy of the Government to the plight of doctors as cruelty and the height of insensitivity.
NMA had threatened to cripple the entire health sector of the state.
Meanwhile, no government official came to receive or address the protesting doctors. They later dispersed after narrating their ordeals to newsmen and some passersby. However, a detachment of armed police personnel was present to maintain peace and order. Towards the end of last year, the NMA had threatened to cripple the entire health sector of the state until the State Government cleared the salary arrears. The medical association also declared indefinite strike in both public and private hospitals in the state, but the State Government is yet to meet their demands despite the threats.
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