President Muhammadu Buhari has asked health workers across the country to reconsider their stand on industrial action.
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on a strike on August 2 over “salary irregularities”, among other issues, while the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) have also issued ultimatums for strike.
Speaking when he met with representatives of NMA on Friday, the president assured the health workers that all owed salaries and allowances would be paid.
Acccording to a statement by Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman, Buhari also urged the health workers to be more understanding and embrace dialogue.
“The lives of citizens that could be lost or damaged, when doctors withdraw services, are precious enough to be worth opting for peaceful resolution of differences,’’ he said.
“Protecting our citizens is not to be left to government alone, but taken as a collective responsibility, in which especially medical professionals play a critical role.
“Let me speak directly to the striking doctors. Embarking on industrial action at this time when Nigerians need you most is not the best action to take, no matter the grievances.
“This administration has a good track record of paying all debts owed to government workers, pensioners and contractors and we have even revisited debts left by past administrations, once due verification is done. Debts genuinely owed health workers will be settled.
“I learnt that some of the 12 points demand in the ongoing strike were already addressed, though the review of a new hazard allowance has not been fully negotiated because of the sharp and deep division within the ranks of the striking doctors.’’
The president also said the issue of a circular removing house officers and National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) doctors from the scheme of service has been clarified by the National Salaries and Wages Commission, that those affected will continue to be paid according to their present wage structure.
He added that the present administration is embarking on major efforts to improve the health sector.
“I request that the agreement reached in the meetings of 20th and 21st August captured in the MoU which I have seen, be religiously implemented,’’ he said.
“We are also supporting initiatives to expand health insurance coverage and bring more resources to health financing. We have many more challenges ahead and much more to do for our large population.
“In this respect, it is important to remind you that, as senior medical personnel and representatives of one of the most respected professional groups in the world, your responsibility for the health and wellbeing of Nigerians are clear.
“It does not end only with the welfare of your members, but continues with a sense of responsibility for the entire country and its sociopolitical health and national stability.
“The global economy has been seriously affected by the pandemic, and despite recent pleasing news of more than five percent economic growth of Nigeria in the last quarter, we are still having fiscal challenges to deal with, like most other countries.
“The source of revenue that Nigeria has depended on for so long experienced global decline; our population is rising fast. The tension arising from both is fuelling agitation among our youth. Organisations like the NMA could play a very useful moderating role in society.”
Present at the meeting were Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment; Osagie Ehanire, minister of health; Olorunnimbe Mamora, minister of state for health; Innocent Ujah, NMA president, among others.