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Reps order Presidential Villa clinic probe, seek upward review of minimum wage

By Newsdesk

The House of Representatives has directed Committee on Health Services to investigate the alleged deplorable state of Presidential Villa Clinic, even as he asked President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Minister of Labour and Employment to commence the process of negotiating an upward review of the current minimum wage.

This was sequel to motions sponsored by Henry Archibong, entitled:’Need to investigate the Deplorable condition of the state clinic and the alleged deductions from the salaries and allowances of the medical staff’ and another moved by Peter Akpatason during plenary on Thursday.

The House unanimously voted in support of the investigation when the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, put the motion to a voice vote and directed the committee to report back within three weeks for further legislative action.

Probe of the health facility came barely days after wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, faulted planned privatisation of the centre when drugs and other needs were not available there.

Moving the motion, Archibong alleged that the clinic had, over the years, been receiving annual budgetary allocations to procure equipment that will enable it to function optimally.

He hinted that in 2015, 2016 and 2017 Appropriation Acts, the clinic was allocated the sums of N3.94 billion, N3.87 billion and N3.2 billion, respectively, for upgrading and provision of necessary drugs and equipment.

“In spite of those huge budgetary allocations, the clinic lacks necessary facilities such as syringes, drugs and equipment needed for saving lives,’’ the lawmaker added.

Archibong disclosed that medical doctors working at the clinic had expressed concern over alleged illegal deductions from their salaries and allowances by the management since April 2017 without any official communication for the action.

“I am aware that the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, complained publicly during a stakeholders’ meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, Nutrition, Child Advocacy and Health and Nutrition (RMNCAHN) at the State House of her inability to access health care needs at the clinic when she took ill recently, but was rather advised by the health providers to fly out of country for treatment.

“I acknowledge that her refusal to heed the advice of the health providers and insisting on obtaining medical care in Nigeria saved the country millions of dollars in foreign exchange and was also an act of patriotism and selflessness worthy of commendation,” he said.

It would be recalled that the State House Clinic was established to take care of the health needs of the President, the Vice-President, their family members as well as members of staff of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

On minimum wage, Dogara, mandated the Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity to ensure implementation of the directive.

Earlier, Akpatason, in the motion, urged the Federal Government to hearken to calls for a review of the national minimum wage figure to avert the looming nationwide strike action threatened by workers.

“The Minimum Wage Act of 2011 set the lowest payable salary at ₦18,000, but the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the National Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and the Federal Government have agreed to set up a joint review team to study and recommend an appropriate rate.

“Labour unions have submitted names of their nominees and have made several requests for commencement of the review process, but government is yet to respond positively to the requests,” he added.

Akpatason, while noting that payments of outstanding debts to contractors and arrears of salaries and pensions to workers had contributed to the reflation of the economy, said that an upward adjustment of the minimum wage would have similar positive effect on the economy.

The law maker told his colleagues that a combination of high inflation rates and the weak exchange value of the Naira had eroded the purchasing power of fixed income earners in the country.

“Such fixed income earners are the bread winners to millions of jobless Nigerians and the aged. A nationwide strike action embarked upon by workers at this time is capable of rolling back recent economic gains. Such strike could return the nation’s fragile economy into recession that will further exacerbate the suffering of the masses,” he explained.

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