Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, has said members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have hinted to suspend their planned resumption of strike on Friday following an “exhaustive meeting”.
This was disclosed in a statement issued by Lanre Lasisi, the Special Adviser to the Speaker on Media and Publicity, on Tuesday.
According to Gbajabiamila, doctors’ apparent reversal was made after they met with the Speaker and the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and also received guarantees from the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, on Tuesday that funds have been made available for the payment of the funds.
The statement partly read: “The doctors, at the resumption of the meeting with Gbajabiamila which began last week, said they would suspend the planned resumption of the strike as soon as they got payment for their salary arrears ranging from one to five months,” the statement said.
“They took the position after the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said funds were available for the payment, assuring that her ministry would pay immediately a verified list of the beneficiaries was received.
“However, when the Director-General of the Budget Office, Mr Ben Akabueze, who was one of the stakeholders at the meeting, confirmed that his office was in receipt of the list, the minister gave her word that payment would be made by May 7.
All the issues raised by the doctors were resolved, except that of salary shortfall for 2014, 2015 and 2016.
“The issue involves all health workers with a cost implication of about N23 billion, which the Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, described as ‘huge and complicated.'”
On claims of a pending case on the matter before a court, the Speaker asked the Minister of Health to produce the relevant court papers to back the claim as the resident doctors said their checks revealed there was no pending court case anywhere on the matter.
There was, however, a joint agreement by the doctors, the House led by the Speaker and officials of the ministry of health that the matter should be set aside until court papers were provided.
The resident doctors had on April 1 embarked on an indefinite strike, making some demands, which included non-payment of house officers, abolishment of bench fees, non-payment of national minimum wage, salary shortfall for 2014, 2015 and 2016, residency training allowance, and payment of resident doctors on GIFMIS platform.
The doctors suspended the strike on April 10 but warned that they would resume the action if the government failed to honour its agreement.
Others present at the meeting, which lasted up to late Tuesday evening, were the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu; Minority Whip, Gideon Gwani; Chairman, House Committee on Healthcare Services, Tanko Sununu, among others.
On the part of the Executive arm were Dr Ehanire; Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs Folasade Yemi-Esan; Chairman of the Committee of CMDs, Dr Jafaru Momoh; the NARD President, Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, among others.