The Federal Government and the striking National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have reached a new agreement in a bid to end the three-week-old strike.
This was disclosed in a statement issued by Charles Akpan, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, on Saturday.
The doctors commenced an indefinite strike on August 2 over the alleged inability of the government to meet the association’s 12-point demand.
According to the statement, the two parties held a marathon meeting on Friday, spanning 11 hours, where various contentious issues were sorted out.
The meeting, which had the most high-powered representation since negotiations with doctors, ended at 1am on Saturday (today), with all the consolidated 12-point demand by NARD, the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria and other affiliates of Nigeria Medical Association resolved.
Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, explained that President Muhammadu Buhari directed him to bypass technicalities and re-commence conciliation, especially in the background of the alternative dispute resolution window, provided by the National Industrial Court, where the matter was referred to under the instrument of article 17 of the Trade Disputes Act.
The minister, who is also a medical doctor, commended the President of the Nigeria Medical Association, Prof. Innocent Ujah for assuming his role as the leader of all doctors in Nigeria, saying all affiliate doctors’ associations are under the NMA.
“When you talk to the children and they don’t listen well, you talk to their parents. The standing agreement that every negotiation by affiliate associations must be led by the NMA was not observed in the recent past. I, therefore, commend Ujah for assuming his role as the father of all doctors. I want you to play this role effectively and efficiently,” the statement quoted Ngige as saying.
Ngige insisted the present administration has made more investment in the health sector, and for doctors and other health professionals than the previous administrations, and dismissed insinuations that the non-keeping of agreements by the Federal Government was at the root of incessant doctors’ strike.
However, Ujah, the President of NMA, said the strike was avoidable and blamed some government functionaries for not playing their roles.
“As doctors, we are trained to prevent disease, cure illnesses and promote health but not trained to go on strike,” he said.
He thanked Ngige for going the extra miles to ensure that officers across Ministries and agencies who are relevant to tackling the doctors’ demands are put on their toes.
“At the meeting we had on Wednesday, before us, he was calling relevant officers, asking what have you done about this, what have you done about this? He does his own and also chases others around to ensure that progress is made,” Ujah said, adding there was no misunderstanding between him and the Minister as falsely reported in a section of the media.
“At close door, the meeting tackled and resolved all the 12-point issues such as payment of House Doctors where Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria tabled evidence to show that 2800 doctors have been paid and efforts ongoing to sort the outstanding 144; the N4.8B Residency Training Fund which the Budget Office assured would be paid in seven days.
“The arrears of the consequential adjustment of the National Minimum Wage which the meeting agreed, cuts across other sectors but that greater focus must be paid to clearing that of April to December 2019 which has no ambiguity. The Ministry of Health also revealed that as of August 3, 2021, a list from 38 hospitals has been forwarded to the Budget office for inclusion in the Service Wide Vote.
“The meeting also tackled the issue of locum doctors/ emergency and migration to IPPIS, the bench fees and the hazard allowance which it agreed should be out of the negotiation table since the stalemate created by the disagreement between the NMA and JOHESU was responsible for the delay, as the Federal Government already mapped out N37.5B for it.
“The decision of the National Council on Establishment, given effect by the Circular from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation which excised house doctors and NYSC doctors from the scheme of service was also visited,” he noted.
The resident doctors had on April 1 commenced 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.
They subsequently resumed their strike on August 2.