An intervention by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has pushed off the planned strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD.
The doctors announced the extension of their strike notice to the Federal Government after a meeting with Gbajabiamila in his office at the National Assembly on Monday.
The meeting was attended by a delegation from NARD, Ministries of Health and Finance officials, the Director General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, Majority Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, Deputy Chief Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha and other members of the House.
Gbajabiamila had last week, through a member of the House and immediate past Secretary-General of the Nigerian Medical Association, Mr Yusuf Sununu, appealed to the doctors to suspend the strike pending a meeting with him.
At the meeting, which lasted for close to two hours, the Speaker persuaded the association and officials of the Ministry of Health to reach an agreement on how to settle the matter.
The President of NARD, Dr Olusegun Olaopa, informed the meeting that they were seeking their salary arrears, skipped salaries amounting to N23.6bn and the resolution of the irregularities in the implementation of the Resident Doctors Act.
Gbajabiamila said: “When you talk about essential services, the most important is health services, because you save lives. So, we know the consequences of your going on strike. Since we all know the consequences, we should be serious about the issue.
“Ours is to appeal to you using the instrumentality of this House. The issue of your N3.5bn, I can almost assure you that that will be resolved next month. There’s already machinery in motion to ensure that it is paid by next month.
“In the presence of everyone here, the finance (ministry) is committing three weeks and you’ll get your pay. As a house, we’ll make sure we follow through. So, for the sake of lives, on that particular one, I beg you to tarry a while.”
Speaking further, the Speaker said the House, through the House Committee on Health, would provide effective oversight on relevant agencies on the implementation of the Resident Doctors Act.
He also promised that the House would ensure the inclusion of the N23.6bn skipped salaries due to the doctors in the 2020 budget.
Gbajabiamila said: “We’re going to put our reputation on the line and try to see how we can get the executive to bring whatever is agreeable and due to them (NARD) into the budget. On our part, we will make sure that whatever is due to you forms part of the 2020 budget.”
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Dr. Olaopa said the association would wait for three weeks.
Olaopa said: “The issues that we have raised that have been the main source of this agitation is basically our emoluments that we have worked for. That some agencies of government have been making all efforts to scuttle, and that has created that height of displeasure among our members.
“The other issue is in respect of the implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act that President Muhammadu Buhari assented to in May 2018. It is unfortunate also that some chief executives are making efforts to frustrate the implementation of the Act.”
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