By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Abuja
The Federal Government Wednesday said the striking members of the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, had lost every legal and moral justification to be on strike and advised them to call off the industrial action.
A statement by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, said the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, insisted that the Federal Government had not only substantially met the Seven-Point demand by NARD, it had also demonstrated transparency in the implementation.
According to him, “The House Officers have started receiving their payments in the federal government teaching hospitals and federal medical centres across the federation. I spoke with the Accountant General of the Federation, AGF, as well as with two Chief medical directors of teaching hospitals this morning and they confirmed payment to house officers. By the close of work today all would have been paid as the officers at the office of the AGF worked even during the public holidays to this effect.
“Even though some of these house officers were recruited outside the quota allocated by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria and some recruited between January and March when there was an embargo on selective recruitment by Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres, amnesty was granted to all to be paid in line with the Memorandum of Action.
“ We have also abolished benching in training as well as stopped the deduction of N15,000 per month from the salaries of house doctors for accommodation. We directed the refund of the deductions and the entire money is now paid to the house doctors to negotiate with the local authorities and sort out individual accommodation.
“The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria has also opened her online portal for the recruitment of house officers effective April 1, 2021, in the spirit of the MOA. It has also started recruiting and posting house doctors almost immediately, even within the public holidays. All these are items time-lined in the MOA for execution within three to four weeks and that is why we agreed to meet in four weeks to access implementation.
“We have an MOA that is signed by all the affected agencies of government, namely the Federal Ministry of Health, Chairman of the Committee of Chief Medical Directors, chairman of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, Budget Office of the Federation, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, officials of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour as the conciliating body.
Sen. Ngige further said the President of NARD, Dr Uyi has also acknowledged this morning, when he met him in the company of the Minister of State, Health and the Secretary of the Nigerian Medical Association, that the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Prof I.O.A Uja kept the leadership of NARD in the dark over the ongoing initial step of the review of the Hazard Allowance with the Remuneration Committee of the NMA, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment as well as the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission. And that it was for this reason that NARD erroneously brought it up as part of their demands for negotiation.
On insurance for doctors, the Minister said, “ last year, 2020, the Federal Government took out a Group life Insurance, extended to cover all civil servants by paying a premium of N9.3billion to 13 insurance companies to ensure the lives of health workers including doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But the truth is that the insurance companies would not pay life compensations for deaths of medical workers unless claims are made. Claims forms were circulated to the Teaching Hospitals/ Federal Medical Centers to enable NARD to compile the list of the names of the next of kin of the fallen doctor-heros, with a duly sworn affidavit for onward transmission to the insurance companies to enable payment. NARD and NMA are yet to assist and pressurize these hospitals to make such returns.
Ngige also explained that the Medical Residency Fund is an act of the National Assembly for residency training, with an inbuilt welfare fund and that the doctors benefited to the tune of Billion from the fund in 2020.
“ It was omitted in the budget last year and luckily the budget was re-done in the wake of COVID-19 and the Speaker of the House Representatives, Gbajabiamila swore this money must be captured and I followed it up, insisting that if it is in appropriation, it must be paid and it was paid.
“ Clearly outside my schedule as the Minister of Labour and Employment, I was forced to go the Accountant General’s Office, Finance Minister’s office for the payment of this money and it was paid 100 per cent even when the Ministry of Finance was releasing other budget items at 50% because of low revenue receipt by the federal government.
The statement equally absolved the Federal Government of blame over the inclusion of non-residents, that is a medical officer who is not in training in the list of payment complied and certified by NARD.
“ Yes, some doctors who are not supposed to benefit, benefited from the money from the list compiled, vetted and submitted by NARD. The Accountant General of the Federation informed me over the list submitted by NARD as the list of their deserving members and I said go ahead and pay them if NARD has certified it.
He added that at the negotiation NARD requested the government to help retrieve the money from doctors who illegally collected and the government directed the CMDs to compile the list and ensure retrieval for onward transmission to NARD. The government however urged NARD to exercise patience
The Minister also said that though the President of Nard was not all through the meeting as he took ill, he left the negotiations in the hands of his deputies who were constantly in touch with him before agreeing to any of the itemized issues. He added that the meeting allowed time for NARD to raise an objection to the agreement after which a Memorandum of Action with a timeline for implementation was signed. “ This is quite different from Memorandum of Understanding(MOU)
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Source: Vanguard News