The Federal Government has commended the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) for suspending its nationwide strike that had lasted for 63 days.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, gave the commendation when he received the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), who led NARD’s executive members, on a visit to his office on Wednesday, in Abuja.
Ngige, who commended the new NARD leadership led by Dr Godiya Ishaya, for asking its members to return to work, disclosed that the federal government had increased the aggregate money in the 2022 budget for hazard allowance from N40 billion to N47 billion annually.
He said the latest strike would not have degenerated to the point it got to, if the former NARD leadership had given their members the correct information.
The minister said that the federal government was not indebted to any doctor up till Aug. 2, when NARD embarked on the strike.
He, however, noted that there were contentions about allowances, such as the Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF) and some doctors who were not paid the Special COVID-19 allowances.
The minister assured that all the contentious issues were being addressed, including the payment of Medical Residency Training Fund and Special COVID-19 allowances for those omitted.
“The previous NARD leadership hoarded information from your members. Instead, things wouldn’t have degenerated. There is no need being pugilistic. We know that we have opposition to our government. It doesn’t mean that if we are doing something right, we should not be praised.
”If the former NARD leadership were not playing politics, they should have reported well to their members, especially after the intervention of the Elders Forum of which the President and Secretary General of NARD were members.
”You are lucky to have me, a medical doctor and health system manager here as the Minister of Labour and Employment. So, when the matter came, the issues are clear to me.
“But, when you bring advice to both parties on how things should be done and it is thrown away completely, you leave us with no other option than to do what the law says that we should be doing.
“That was why I sent this matter to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN),” he said.
Ngige explained that the issue of circular “removing NYSC doctors and house officers from the scheme of service was the decision of the National Council on Establishments chaired by the Head of Service of the Federation,” he said.
On the issue of the migration of some doctors on the GFMIS platform, Ngige explained that there were things that the government could not do immediately, but needed time to accomplish.
Ngige commended the new leadership of NARD for being amenable to dialogue, saying that information reaching him showed that they had been traversing offices for the welfare of their members, which their predecessors lacked the patience to do.
On the issue of benefits of deceased doctors, he said government had received a report that the next of kin of the deceased doctors were not seen.
Earlier, in separate speeches, the Secretary General of the NMA, Dr Philip Ekpe, and the new NARD President, Dr Godiya Ishaya, thanked Ngige for his reconciliatory efforts that led to the resolution of the strike.
They, however, appealed to the minister to fast track the full implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding they entered into with the government.