Journalism for social change – A case for the doctors in Abuja

August 26, 2020 – Pulse Nigeria exclusively reports that doctors working in Idu and Asokoro COVID-19 isolation centres in Abuja had not received their salaries for three months. 

August 29, 2020 – Pulse Nigeria reports that more Abuja centres are also owing volunteer doctors working on the frontlines with COVID-19 positive patients.

August 31, 2020 – After three consecutive months of non-payment, doctors in Abuja embark on a strike. 

September 8, 2020 – Pulse Nigeria reports that as a direct consequence of its previous reports, doctors in Abuja have received a portion of their owed salaries. 

September 10, 2020 – President Buhari approves N8.9 billion hazard allowance for health workers, National Association of Resident Doctors suspends nationwide strike.

The Pulse Nigeria editorial team learnt of the fact that despite risking their lives and working on the frontlines of the war against coronavirus in Nigeria, some doctors in certain isolation centres in Abuja were being owed their salaries. After we exclusively reported the story, we got more tip-offs from other doctors and persons aware of the situation. 

They needed to find a way to get the word out anonymously about the situation so that they could protect their identities and safely bring attention to the issue. We quickly learnt that the situation was the same not only in these particular centres but across the city.

After we ran these stories, changes began to happen. On September 8, just under two weeks after the first Pulse exclusive was published, the doctors and nurses contacted us to report that they had begun receiving alerts. Their payments were not complete yet, but it meant that the reports had brought some attention to the issue. 

Two days later, the Nigerian president approved the hazard allowance of N8.9 billion for health workers, possibly triggering the suspension of the NARD nationwide strike. 

We were first tipped off by COVID-19 patients in those initial centres who quickly understood that they were potentially in danger if the unpaid doctors decided to down their tools and leave them to their fate. By bringing attention to the issue, using our platforms to cause questions to be asked of the government’s management of money meant for these doctors, we brought about this crucial response.

At Pulse, we believe in the power of journalism to bring about social change and correct wrongs in society. It is a solemn responsibility that we take seriously and honourably. We will continue to leverage journalism to make our contributions to social change with every opportunity we get.