Udora Orizu in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has appealed to the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to tarry awhile on their strike ultimatum as government was working assiduously to meet their demands.
The NARD had warned that it would embark on strike on next Monday following government’s inability to fulfill certain obligations agreed in a memorandum of understanding it had with the resident doctors.
But Gbajabiamila, at a meeting on yesterday in Abuja with both the Minister and Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and Sen. Olorumibe Mamora respectively; the Director General of Budget Office, Ben Akabueze; the President of NARD, Dr. Sokomba Aliyu and the Secretary General of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Dr. Ekpe Philips, said the leadership of the House would not fold its arms while resident doctors embark on strike at this time of COVID-19 pandemic disease.
The Speaker also hinted that the House would come up with a law if need be that would back and define the payment of hazard allowance for clarity sake.
He noted that the issue of hazard allowance was captured in the supplementary budget before the House.
The speaker said: ‘’As a House, we’ll keep taking steps to avoid strikes. This meeting will give us the opportunity to holistically address the issues at stake. Let’s agree on one thing: that at this time, we can’t afford to allow our doctors go on strike. Let’s agree that their welfare is a priority.
“I want to appeal to the President of NARD and the association itself. My appeal is on humanitarian basis. You’re dealing with lives, so I appeal to you to suspend the strike. I’m making this appeal because of your professional calling. You’re dealing with lives. I want you to understand that government is doing its best to meet your entitlement.”
He assured that the resident doctors’ training would be captured in the 2021 budget whether or not it is included in the ministry’s budget.
Responding, Sokomba said he would relate the speaker’s intervention to the national executive of the association after which he would communicate their decision to the House.
Mamora said an agreement was reached at a meeting attended by all stakeholders, including NARD leadership, that payment would be made and that all other issues would be addressed.
Also, Akabueze said a sum of about N20 billion was proposed as hazard allowance for the doctors in the budget while the issue of life insurance was well covered.