Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Sack of Doctors in Osun State: Aregbesola Government has sunk to a new low

Sack of Doctors in Osun State: Aregbesola Government has sunk to a new low

DSM Supports doctors’ struggle in Osun State

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Osun State Chapter, views the latest response of the Osun State government to the legitimate demands of the doctors under the employment of the state government as shameful and reactionary. It has again shown the retrogressive nature of the Rauf Aregbesola-led Osun State government. According to the latest press conference addressed by the chairman of government’s Special Committee on Health, Dr. Simon Afolayan, the government claimed the doctors have been disengaged from service because they embarked on legitimate strike to demand for payment of their salaries. According to the government’s logic, workers have no right to demand full payment of their salaries, as doing so will be tantamount to “breaking the civil service rule”. The government did not however state if the “civil service rule” allows government to deny workers their salaries.

The government’s response is coming few days after doctors protested in Osogbo over non-payment of their salaries. Clearly, the government, having been exposed of its treachery and ineptitude, is looking for means to divert attention. The doctors are demanding full payment of their outstanding salaries and pension contributions, among other demands. The government, on the other hand has refused to accede to these genuine and legitimate demands.

If there is anybody who has flouted any law or rule, it is the Aregbesola government and its officials. For instance, there is no law to back payment of half salaries to workers or to delay paying workers’ salaries. Also, government has no right to dip its hands into the pension contributions of workers or refuse to remit its contribution to the pension scheme. Furthermore, it is illegal for government to tamper with cooperative funds of workers. Unfortunately, the Osun State government has been deliberately flouting the relevant laws in respect of workers’ salaries, pension contributions and cooperative money, even when these are affecting workers’ wellbeing. That the government will feel no shame denying doctors’ salaries for months, especially at a time that the health sector in the state is in debilitating conditions, is a historic sign of misrule. How will government expect doctors and medical workers to concentrate on their job of saving lives, when their wellbeing is at stake?

For the umpteenth time, we find the excuse of the government that there is no money to pay workers as simply ridiculous, as such flies in the face of glaring wasteful and extravagant spending of the government since inception. While the government is claiming there are no funds to pay workers’ salaries, the same government is committing up to N11 billion to construction of a Cargo Airport in Ido Osun, even when it is clear to everyone that such project is unnecessary and economically wasteful. Despite having spent over N2.5 billion on the project, nothing substantial and serious can be shown, aside sand filling and fencing of the site. How can a government that wasted over N2.5 billion to sand fill and fence the site claim there is no money to pay doctors and thereby allow the health sector in the state to function? The same government that claimed there is no money to pay the doctors and workers in the state is committing over N1 billion to rehabilitate a 4-km Olaiya-Ita-Olokan road, something that is a case of wanton inflation of contract sum.

Interestingly, the same Osun State government used workers to get a bailout worth N34.9 billion from the federal government, under the guise of using the money to pay salaries. Ironically, for the past five months, government has only been paying half salaries to workers, while the no salary has been paid for the last three months. Also, the doctors are being owed salaries for the past five months. Rather than trying to arm-twist the doctors to accept government’s draconian policies, the Aregbesola government should explain how it spent the N34.9 billion-bailout, for which the state will be paying 9 percent annual interest!

Clearly, the Aregbesola government has lost the compass of governance. This is nothing strange as the government has only existed as electoral government, ruling to retain power. More than this, the government is clearly pro-rich and wasteful. This explains why a state that earned over N300 billion in the last 5 years, and borrowed over N100 billion (aside the N34.9 billion bailout), will still be bankrupt and unable to pay salaries. Where is the so-called N1 billion monthly internal revenue the government claims to be earning? Where is the so-called N30 billion the government claimed to have saved?

Despite the wasteful spending by the government, all facets of social sector have collapsed or are in a debilitating state.

Take education for instance; despite the several billions of naira government claimed to have spent on rebuilding less than thirty schools, out of over two thousand public schools, and on computer tablets for senior students, just 8, 800 out of over 48, 808 that sat for West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) in 2015 had five important credits; thus making the state to rank 29th among other states. Rather than encourage the students and teachers, and improve facilities across schools, the government launched another attack on the students and their poor parents by canceling payment for WASSCE fees. Also, tertiary educational institutions are currently under attack as government, aside neglecting these institutions for years, is attempting scrapping of the institutions, starting with mass sack of lecturers and non-academic staff.

In the health sector, the story is gory as currently expressed by the ongoing strike in the health sector.

Despite spending tens of billions of naira on road construction, all the major roads connecting Osogbo, the state capital, with other towns like Ife, Gbongan/Ibadan, Ilobu/Ogbomosho, Ikirun, Ilesa, etc. are in deplorable conditions or have been abandoned.

The Aregbesola government should explain how it has squandered the wealth of the state, and thus put the state in a permanent pit of indebtedness. We find as ludicrous, the excuse of Dr. Afolayan that because there are only 100 doctors in the state, their welfare can be ignored. This again exposes the character of people ruling the state. Is it not shameful that in a state with over 4 million people, the government, which is the biggest employer of doctors, will be bold enough to say it only has 100 doctors in its employment? That is a ratio of a doctor to forty thousand people! This shows how much the government has neglected and destroyed the health sector in the state. To add insult to injury, the same government wants to sack the few hands in the sector. This is not unexpected as those in government hardly patronize any of the public health institutions; therefore they are less concerned if the poor people die in droves.

We demand immediate reversal of the obnoxious sack of doctors as such will spell total doom for the health sector, which is already gasping for survival. We also demand immediate and full payment of all outstanding salaries and pension arrears of doctors and all workers in the state. We call for immediate end to all austerity policies of the Aregbesola government, but demand for a full probe of government finances since inception.

We welcome and support the protest action organized by doctors on Tuesday, 16th February, 2016 in Osogbo, and call for the broadening and escalation of this kind of action by mobilizing other unions in the health sector and the working people in general in support of the struggle. Expecting doctors to work under poor conditions will be detrimental to the health sector.

Alfred Adegoke
State Coordinator
Kola Ibrahim
State Secretary