NARD Demands Sack of Labour, Health Ministers as Minimum Conditions to Call Off Strike

The striking National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD has given as its minimum requirements to call off its 151-day-old strike, the sack of labour and health ministers, Chris Ngige, and Osagie Ehanire, respectively as well as payment of114 of its members owed between five and seven months salaries.

Speaking Tuesday on Channels Television breakfast programe, Sunrise Daily, NARD President, Osakhuesuyi Uyilawa who said the number of resident doctors lost to COVID-19 had risen from 19 to 21, stated unequivocally that “Now, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors are saying the season for a change in the medical sector is now. We do not want to negotiate with the minister of labour and minister of health. We actually think that for Nigeria to have a better health sector, those people also have to be changed. We are adamant, and we insist on this”.

Expressing outrage at the conduct of the labour minister whom he accused of lying to the presidency and Nigerians, the NARD President said “You cannot go to the presidency and be feeding wrong information and come on TV and said the 12 things they have done have been met when they are signing another MoU after 151 days.

“The people that have not been paid, have you asked them how they have fed their families? Have you asked them that as schools are resuming now in September, how they are going to go back to school for those children? Have you asked them how they are able to pay their rents?

“Somebody is not doing their job and they are sitting down at their tables! They are enjoying COVID allowance paid to them; they have enjoyed all salaries, and DTAs for extra time being spent when negotiating with us, and we are bearing the brunt and Nigerians are suffering.

“There’s a season for everything. If the health system has to move forward, then there needs to be an overhaul of the entire system”.

Insisting on removal of the labour minister in particular, he said “We had an intervention by the vice president, Osinbajo on Friday where we spoke for over one hour, forty-five minutes. What the national house officers committee has realized is that the biggest problem we have is from the minister of labour. I can tell you that if I go back to my members and they ask for just one person and we call off the strike, we will ask for the minister of labour to be removed and we will call off the strike. Not concerning the no-work-no-pay that he has done; for feeding Nigerians and the presidency lies.

“He comes on air regularly misinforming Nigerians when people are dying and he tells you he’s a medical elder. I wonder in years to come what legacies he would have left behind. He’s a chief reconciliator of the federal government. What has he reconciled?

“ASUU is threatening to go on strike; JOHESU is threatening to go on strike. MDCAN is threatening to go on strike, NMA is threatening to go on strike; virtually all sectors in Nigeria want to go on strike. How many reconciliations has he done and gained to make people go back and do the right things?”

Going down memory lane, Okhuesuyi recalled that NARD went on strike on April 2, and started another one August 2021, stressing that “It has been season of recurrent strike basically because one group or one set has refused to honour agreements made”.

According to him, “We have lost 19; we lost two more now meaning we have lost 21 bread winners – 21 resident doctors – to COVID-19. And we have a system that tells you all health workers have been insured. Death in service insurance or compensations for the next of kin is more like a mirage now.

“The head of service then, at the instance of the Speaker of the House and the honourable minister of labour, said the country had brought about N995 million to help insure all health workers and up till now, two additions to the 19, no death-in-service insurance to any of our members”.

Buttressing his allegation that the labour minister had been feeding the presidency with lies, the NARD president stated that “Memories never lie. On Channels here, he said the presidency was told that we have met 12 or virtually all their demands. I think we need to further break it down. The death-in-service insurance is still not met after 151 days; the members on GIFMIS platform are still owed five to seven months, so, it has not been met.

“The capture of the members on GIFMIS and those local officers that have been casualised by the chief medical directors have still not been met. The medical residency training fund as of three weeks ago that was promised would be paid, it’s still not been paid.

“The minimum wage adjustment allowance is still not paid. The short-falls of 2014, 2015 and 2016 have still not been met. And you come on air and tell them that you have virtually had everything done and because of that you are applying no work no pay.

“What has been applied to those that have not done their jobs? It’s sad and disheartening when we lose people to cholera, to COVID-19, to Ebola and you think you are doing Nigerians a favour that you want to apply no work, no pay? You think that will scare us?”.

Upbraiding the health minister for alleged dereliction of his duty, he accused him of not attending meetings called to resolve the face-off.

“In particular, he said Ehanire was not at a meeting between the federal government and commissioners of health in Calabar, Cross River State, to discuss the affairs of the health sector.

“It’s 151 days; we have had several meetings and of all the meetings, it’s just twice which he barely stayed”. He said he was in the habit of giving excuses of having engagements at the presidency and he would leave. He attributed his perceived non-challance to lack of willingness to work and prevent the health system from going down.

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