Resident doctors in Nigeria operating under the aegis of Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have issued a two-week ultimatum to the Federal Government of Nigeria to commence the implementation of all pending agreements. The professional association says that failure to do so would lead to industrial disharmony in the health industry. This was disclosed in a communique that was issued at the end of its Extraordinary National Executive Council Meeting. According to the statement, the ultimatum ends on July 19, 2023.
It states that the association will give the government adequate time to begin the implementation of the resolutions of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was previously signed by both parties on May 19, 2023. If the government then fails to meet the demands, it says that its members may embark on a nationwide industrial strike action at the expiry of the ultimatum. The resolutions were in the communique, which was obtained on Wednesday evening and signed by the association’s president, Dr. Orji Emeka Innocent; Secretary General, Dr. Chikezie Kelechi; and Publicity and Social Secretary, Dr. Umar Musa.
Demands of the health professionals contained in the bulletin.
Their demands include immediate payment of the 2023 Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF) as contained in the approved 2023 budget; payment of all outstanding arrears owed its members including the hazard allowance and the skipping arrears of 2014-2016, and the arrears of consequential adjustment of minimum wage; immediate release and implementation of the guidelines on one-for-one replacement of clinical staff to cushion the effect of the massive manpower shortage in various hospitals nationwide; and discontinuation of downgrading of membership certificate issued by the West African Postgraduate Medical and Surgical colleges.
Additionally, the association demands immediate payment of all salary arrears, the implementation of the CONMESS salary structure and new hazard allowance, the domestication of the Medical Residency Training Act, payment of the MRTF to members in state tertiary health Institutions nationwide, immediate implementation of minimum of 200-percent increment in the CONMESS salary structure, and upward review of the associated allowances as requested in previous letters on the subject matter. “NEC expressed worry that the circular on one-for-one replacement of clinical staff who have exited the various tertiary hospitals across the country was yet to be released. NEC recalled that the conciliatory meeting agreed that the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation would release the implementation guideline on or before 5th June 2023 for onward transmission to the Tertiary Hospitals for implementation. This has not happened till now,” part of the communique read.
Previously embarked on an industrial warning strike.
The doctors had on May 17, 2023 embarked on a five-day warning strike due to the failure of the Nigerian government meeting their demands. Before that warning strike, the association had issued an ultimatum to the government to resolve issues affecting its members, including the implementation and payment of the new hazard allowance and arrears. When the government failed to meet its demands, the organization commenced the warning strike. It was the signing of the MoU in May that led to the suspension of the strike.
This was not the first time that Nigerian doctors would embark on a nationwide strike. In 2021, NARD organized a labor strike, which began on August 2, 2021 and was suspended by court order on August 23 of the same year. The strike was caused by pay disputes between the union and the Federal Government. The union had alleged that the government had reneged on an agreement that they had reached following the end of the last strike in April 2021.
Doctors’ strike effectively cripples healthcare activities in the country.
Resident doctors are doctors who are undertaking training to become specialists or consultants in a medical field. They make up the majority of doctors in Nigeria’s tertiary hospitals. Consequently, when they embarked on a strike, almost all activities in the public health sector were grounded to a halt. Meanwhile, NARD expressed its profound gratitude to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Senator George Akume, Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Femi Gbajabiamila, Chief of Staff to the President, and others for their unwavering support to the realization of its demands.