By Williams Anuku Abuja
The strike embarked upon by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), may have paid off handsomely, as President Muhammadu Buhari has approved additional N8,901,231,773.55 to pay up the large chunk of the June 2020 COVID-19 hazard allowance to all health workers.
Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, who revealed the latest development, however questioned the audacity of the resident doctors to go on strike in the first instance.
Ngige’s verbal attacks came while meeting with Executive members of NARD in Abuja, insisting that among all the health professionals, NARD has benefited the most from government.
He said out of the eight demands raised by the striking doctors, six had been met while the remaining two are at advanced stages of implementation.
“President Buhari has approved additional N8,901,231,773.55 to pay up the large chunk of the June 2020 COVID-19 allowance to all medical health workers, and government would soon commence a review of a Permanent Hazard Allowance for all Health Workers after consultations by him with all stakeholders,” the Minister stated.
There are also indications that the turn of events may compel NARD to discontinue its strike action as they succeeded in striking a deal with government leading to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that NARD would consult with her Executive Council within the next 24 hours with a view to calling off the strike by today September 10.
They also secured the assurance of government to ensure that no doctor would be victimised for any activity connected with or for participating in the industrial action.
The Labour Minister advised doctors against using strike to intimidate government, noting that the present government has been fair to the health sector unlike previous administrations.
According to him, a meeting with labour ministers in Africa had revealed that the rate at which the Nigerian government pay doctors was the highest governments pay in Africa.
In his words: “Out of the eight demands given to the government by the Resident Doctors, six of the demand have been met. It is painful that while efforts are being made to smoothing the remaining demands, you went on strike.
“It is unfair to say that government is deceitful, it is a gutter language and you cannot use such words against government.
“Freedom of association is not absolute especially in the period of national emergency if you go on strike and people die, you will be held responsible. Do not use strike to intimidate government.
“Government has done more than enough and even before the COVID-19 government has done more than enough for the health system compared to the past governments, this government has done so much more.
“You are bad mouthing this government as if you’re acting a script because that is the only conclusion that should be drawn from your action. You are asking us to go and force state governments to do some certain things…we cannot do that because health is on the concurrent list of the constitution. This strike is unwarranted and we will not condone it.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has set two weeks timeline for the payment of the N4 billion Medical Residency Training for 2020 to striking resident doctors.
The Accountant – General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris has been given the task to effect the quick payment of the money to the doctor which among other agreement set the tone for the likely call – off of the strike
At the end of the meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
was signed by Dr. Sokomba Aliyu, NARD President; Dr. Bilqis Muhammad, Sec. Gen., NARD; Dr. Ekpe Philips Uche, Sec Gen, NMA; and Ahmed Idris, Accountant General of the Federation.
Others were: A. M. Abdullahi, Permanent Secretary, FMoH; Dr. Yerima P. Tarfa, Permanent Secretary, Labour & Employment; Sen. (Dr.) A. O. Mamora, Minister of State for Health; Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and Employment and Senator Ngige.