All over the world, health workers, who are at the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 are most at risk of contracting the disease. To ensure their safety, governments, and private and multilateral organisations have been working to provide adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers, as the importance of their roles and the need to ensure occupational health and safety cannot be overemphasized. According to Nigeria’s Health Minister, Osagie Ehanire, over 40 health workers have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country. The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) at a teleconference on April 22, resolved to ensure provision of PPE for medical practitioners and their training on proper use of the materials.
Conversations over non-payment of salaries and allowances of medical practitioners employed in public hospitals across Nigeria, is certainly not new. It will be recalled that the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) in Abuja announced that it was commencing industrial action over unpaid salaries on March 17 2020, when Nigeria had just recorded its third case of COVID-19. However, with their services now in high demand in light of increasing cases of COVID-19 infections, alongside routine medical care, talks of their remuneration packages have been brought to the fore, particularly hazard allowances. It appears that the Nigerian government has begun to take steps to address this issue. Lagos State Government increased the hazard allowance of health workers in the State from N5,000 to N25,000, effective from April 2020. Also, at the briefing of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 on Friday, April 24, Secretary to the Federal Government, Boss Mustapha announced that the taskforce was in receipt of life insurance coverage for 5,000 frontline health workers, for which N112,500,000 was paid in full by the Nigerian insurance industry as premium for the policy. He added that the Federal Government had also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for allowances and incentives for health workers.