Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, has said it is unlawful for the federal government to pay doctors for the period they have been on strike.
The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) commenced a strike on August 2, over “irregular payment of salaries”, among other issues.
Efforts by the national assembly and other stakeholders to mediate between the federal government and the resident doctors have not yielded results.
Ngige, while speaking on Saturday when Sam Jaja, chairman of the Forum of Health Institutions in Nigeria (FCHIN), paid him a visit in Abuja, said he will not support the demand of the doctors because it is against the law.
“[The doctors want that] section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act should not apply to them. That we should insert in a government agreement that they should be paid for the period they are not at work. I’m being careful about this,” he said.
“This is law and I will not lend myself to illegality, to state in the agreement that a group of Nigerians are above the law. But as a matter of fact, a clause in that agreement states clearly that nobody should be punished for participating or not participating in the strike.
“So what else do they want ? They want me to put in writing that they are above the law. That “no work, no pay” policy should not apply to them. That the “no work, no pay” is no more part of our law, despite the fact that I swore to uphold the constitution?
“This is notwithstanding that a clause in the agreement says that no one should be punished for any role in the strike”.
On his part, Jaja described the strike by the doctors as “insensitive”.
“We feel so concerned the strike hasn’t been called off. Strike should be the last resort when every other effort has been exhausted in terms of finding a solution to whatever the problem is,” Jaja stated.
“For any little thing, you resort to disruption of services; it does not portray the country in good light. It doesn’t also portray the profession in good light, most especially a profession that has to do with the preservation of human lives.
“It makes them (doctors) insensitive and that is not right. For whatever reason, I think we should nip it in the bud. That is what we as a Forum of Chairmen of Health Institutions of Nigeria are in for.
“We need to find a solution to this. It is not good for us and it is not good for them.”