The Federal Government has said it did everything possible to stop the ongoing nationwide strike by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, which has paralysed activities in government hospitals across the country.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige stated this while addressing the Nigerian Health Commissioners Forum Quarterly meeting in Abuja.
The minister recalled that “the doctors were sleeping on their rights until COVID-19 pandemic broke out last year,” and the Federal Government felt that the N5000 hazard allowance paid to them since 1991 was too paltry.
He noted that the FG paid the doctors and other health workers bumper money as a special COVID hazard allowance for three months in the first instance, to the tune of N32 billion, while states were told to pay as much as they could afford.
The minister narrated to the Health Commissioners the trajectory of the current strike.
He stated, “In September 2020, they put a notice of strike, asking for Medical Residency Training Fund by which each of them will get N542, 000 to cover the cost of books and journals for that particular examination, transportation, and lodging for three days.
“Luckily, a supplementary budget was being put together and it was included and was paid to them. They called off the strike. By March this year, they listed other things again. They said the Residency Training Fund is not in the 2021 budget. They also needed the hazard allowance to be upgraded and demanded that states should domesticate Residency Training Act. They said some states owed their people long months of salaries. They also wanted to skip allowance and arrears of consequential adjustment to minimum wage.
“Before we could say Jack Robinson, they went on strike on April 1. I thought it was April fool until April 2 when we didn’t see them at work. I told them that they didn’t give the mandatory 21 days notice to their employers who have written to me to complain.
“However, we returned to the table. The government pledged that the 2021 Residency Training Fund will be captured in the supplementary budget. This has been done and payment ready.
“ FG also approved N11.3b for Group Life Insurance in 2020 and renewed in 2021. Government also held a series of conjoint NMA-JOHESU meeting on hazard allowance until the two disagreed and now asked for separate negotiations. They are the ones delaying action on this. Every other issues bordering on what the states have failed to do with doctors is where our hands are tied, but Federal Government agreed to speak to the Governor’s Forum.
“The arrears of consequential adjustment to the minimum wage cuts across sectors. Anyway, N160 billion earmarked for it has been exhausted and the next thing to do is to push for more. But really, some hospitals have gotten. We also abolished bench fees for Residency Training for those doing specialty. At this, the doctors left the negotiation happy .”