N’Assembly intervenes in dispute
By Deji Elumoye, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Udora Orizu in Abuja
The federal government and the leadership of the Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have resolved to meet again today – Thursday, to conclude agreement on the terms of implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at addressing the demands of the doctors.
The leadership of the NARD also yesterday met behind closed-doors with the Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Health to discuss the impending strike by the doctors.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, who briefed journalists after the marathon meeting, said various committees had been set up to resolve all issues concerning the doctors.
The resident doctors had threatened to begin strike today, April 1, 2021 over unfulfilled agreements.
However, in a bid to stop another industrial action in the health sector, the federal government yesterday convened a meeting with the Doctors.
THISDAY gathered that the meeting ended at about mid night with most issues addressed before both sides decided to adjourn the meeting till today so that an agreement could be signed on the withdrawal of strike ultimatum by the doctors.
On the issue of the non-payment of outstanding hazard allowance to the doctors, the federal government said that it had asked the Chief Medical Officers of the tertiary health Institutions to ensure that they submit proper documentation to the ministry.
Speaking at the opening of the talks yesterday, Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige said the meeting became necessary due to the breakdown of dialogue between the doctors and their parent ministry, the Federal Ministry of Health.
But the minister said that due to the global health emergency resulting from the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and other health workers were not expected to withdraw their services no matter the reason.
According to him, no less than 80 per cent of Nigeria’s population currently faced threat of illness due to COVID-19 pandemic and might need urgent hospital attention.
He told the aggrieved doctors that that strike action was not an option considering the raging threat of COVID-19 on Nigerians and its imposed restrictions on the government .
“We are in a very bad period health wise the world over and Nigeria is not an exception; so, we have to think about the generality of Nigerians because right now, 80 per cent of Nigerians are our patients because of the COVID-19 pandemic; so, we have to look at the issues that way and see how we can get the best out of this situation,” he said.
In his remark, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Alhaji Abdullahi Marshi who represented the minister, said that a meeting was held last Thursday with the doctors to resolve the issues.
He explained that the parley with the leadership of NARD was able to iron out all the issues, adding that what remained was to get the doctors to accept to drop their strike ultimatum.
On his part, the national President of NARD, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi said the association was looking forward to the resolution of the dispute at the meeting.