Relief as Doctors Agree to End Strike

  • Strike unwarranted, illegal, Ngige insists

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Striking resident doctors have reached agreement with the federal government to end their four-day industrial action.

The doctors also allegedly apologised to the federal government over their strike, blaming it on communication gap and bottlenecks in the implementation of agreement reached between the government and the association.

At the end of the reconciliatory meeting held yesterday at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) accepted to meet with its executive council with a view to calling off the strike by today.

The communiqué issued after the meeting stated that: “In view of these understanding, NARD will consult with its executive council within the next 24hrs with a view to calling off the strike by September 10, 2020.”

The meeting agreed that nobody would be victimised for any activity connected with or for participating in the industrial action.

In a communiqué jointly signed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN); Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunmibe Mamora; Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris for the federal government, and Secretary-General of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Ekpe Philip Uche, and President of NARD, Dr. Sokumba Aliyu, the federal government accepted that the N4 billion appropriated for Residency Training under a wrong heading for Medical Residency Training will be vired before expenditure.

It said the process of amendment is ongoing and is expected that the process and cash backing would be through in two weeks.

On the payment of outstanding 2014, 2015, and 2016 arrears, the meeting recalled that it had been agreed that the issue would be further discussed post-COVID-19, and therefore, no agreement was breached.

On the implementation of the payment of the Special Hazard/Inducement Allowance, the meeting expressed satisfaction that the N20 billion already appropriated in 2020 COVID-19 budget has been exhausted to N19 billion.

The meeting commended the federal government for approving additional N8, 901, 231, 773.55 to pay up the large chunk of the June 2020 COVID-19 allowance to all medical health workers. This has been cash backed and the mandate sent to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for payments to start by September 9.

The communiqué further stated that discussions for the review of a Permanent Hazard Allowance for all health workers would commence as soon as possible after consultations by the Minister of Labour and Employment with all stakeholders in the health sector. “Based on the principles of ability to pay, this will cover all health workers in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA),” the communique said.

It said a meeting would be convened as soon as possible to take up the matter.

At the opening of the talks, the leaderships of NMA and NARD both tendered the apology during the reconciliatory meeting brokered by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Ngige, and Keyamo.

NARD had declared a nationwide industrial action last Monday demanding the payment of the medical residency training to all its members as approved in the revised 2020 budget among other demands.

However, Secretary-General of NMA, Dr. Philip Ekpe, who intervened during reconciliatory meeting, said he was apologising on behalf of the members of NARD for taking the extreme measure of declaring the strike and portraying the government as deceitful.