Government begins payment of arrears of doctors

Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Folorunsho (left); his Labour and Employment counterpart, Dr. Chris Ngige; the minister of state in the ministry, Professor Stephen Ocheni and President, National Medical Association, Dr. Mike Ogirima; during a meeting on the ongoing strike by resident doctors in Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ELUKPO<br />

• ‘Strikes by medics, varsity teachers national embarrassment’
• TUC flays minister over directive on casual workers

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has begun the payment of backlog of resident doctors nationwide. The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, who made the revelation yesterday at the resumed negotiations between government and the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) in Abuja, explained that the office of the Accountant General of the Federation had remitted the arrears to the apex bank for immediate action.

Faulting the ongoing strike, the minister accused the doctors of violating Section 18 of the Trade Union Dispute Act of the Federation 2004. Ngige also flayed the association for allegedly blackmailing and shortchanging the Ministry of Health after an agreement had been reached last week.

His words: “I do not think is very fair to the Federal Ministry of Health which is the employers of the doctors. In this ministry, we act as conciliators. Even though I am a government minister, I am a chief conciliator. If the government is wrong, I will tell them that they are wrong. If the employees are wrong, I will say so and at the end of the day, we will find a way to conciliate and make for equitable industrial relations.”

Besides, the Unified Nigeria Youth Forum (UNYF) has described the inability of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to meet the demands of NARD and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as a national embarrassment.

In a statement by its president, Abdulsalam Muhammad Kazeem, the group contended said that government should have prioritised the legitimate agitations of these professionals, since it was able to foot the bogus medical bill of the President in a London hospital for more than 100 days.

It, however, appealed to the striking doctors to suspend the strike by “reconsidering their step to save the lives of many common Nigerians who are currently receiving treatment in our various public hospitals across the nation.”

The group continued: “The resident doctors should please resume work with immediate effect to reaffirm the oath they swear him with to.”

Also yesterday, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) flayed the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, for reportedly directing all chief medical directors and medical directors of federal hospitals to immediately engage the services of casual doctors pending the resolution of the crisis. It described the order as reckless, unguarded and very unbecoming of the office of a highly placed government functionary.

Labour argued that if the current administration must towed this line, it should also employ casual officials as ministers and special aides, saying this would help the country save enough money.

In a statement by its president, Bobboi Bala Kaigama, TUC said Nigeria had become a joke in the comity of nations owing to remarks lacking intellectual depth.



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