FG May Sack Striking Doctors as Talks End in Deadlock


* N4bn paid to doctors as hazard allowance, says Ngige

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The meeting held yesterday in Abuja between the federal government and the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) ended in deadlock, fueling a veiled threat by the federal government to sack the striking doctors.

The meeting which started by 1pm, ended at about 7.40 pm, without achieving any results.

At the end of the meeting, the Minister of Health Ehanire Osagie disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Health would issue a directive to all medical directors in the country to open a register by 7a.m today (Wednesday) and record those who come to work and those who fail to come to work.

The move by government is coming as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige said that federal government has commenced the payment of new hazard allowances to health workers.

Ehanire who spoke shortly after the talks with the leadership of NARD failed to yield positive outcome, noted that health is very important at this crucial time.

He said: “We are ready to protect the lives of Nigerians; we are not going to allow our hospitals to fallow.”

Ehanire said that Nigeria is the first country in the world where doctors went on strike during a global pandemic.

Speaking via phone with journalists, the President of NARD, Dr. Aliyu Sokomba said, ”we would call off the strike only when the government comes up with tangible outcome; we would call of the strike within 24 hours”.

Ngige who along the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire held a meeting with the leadership of the striking medical doctors at his office, said that government is going to implement the rest of the agreement with the doctors in stages.

When THISDAY asked the minister about the outcome of the meeting with the doctors, Ngige said that no conclusions and that the leadership of NARD disclosed that they needed to go back for its executive committee meeting.

He said that the doctors have gone for consultations with their members, adding that they would get back to government after 24 hours.

“They said that they haven’t seen any tangible thing from government and that their accounts were yet to be credited. But I told them that the federal government has paid N2 billion to health workers across board in 14 teaching hospitals and Federal Medical Centres as at Monday.

Speaking on the promise made by the federal government to begin payment of the new hazard allowances to all categories of frontline health workers involved in covid-19 treatment, Ngige said:

“There are about 43 or 52 teaching hospitals and Federal Medical Centres in the country and we are paying them in batches. By Wednesday (today), the amount paid out would have hit N4 billion”.

However indications that the meeting ended without any tangible outcome emerged when the NARD leadership failed to come back to the venue of the talks at the Ministry of Labour for the continuation of negotiations.

Only the president of NARD, Sokomba went back apparently to see the minister but he left almost immediately, and refused to speak to journalists. When journalists reached him on his telephone, he said that they were not going to resume further talks until the government has done something tangible tangible to meet their demands.