The Federal Government and striking members of the National Association of Resident Doctors met again on Saturday after an 11-hour meeting yesterday.
The meeting, amongst other matters, tackled the issue of locum doctors, migration to IPPIS, and bench fees.
The issue of hazard allowance was agreed should be out of the negotiation table since the stalemate created by the disagreement between the NMA and JOHESU was responsible for the delay, as the Federal Government already mapped out N37.5B for it.
Though the adjourned marathon meeting slated for 10am on Saturday didn’t commence until about 4.30pm, it was brief.
However, details emerging from the meeting signal an end in sight to the industrial action that has brought the nation’s health system to its knees as the Federal Government is set to pen a new agreement with the striking doctors.
Recall that the doctors had embarked on a strike on August 2 over unpaid benefits, among other issues. But the government threatened to invoke the ‘no work, no pay’ policy to compel the doctors to suspend the strike, but that measure did not work.
In his opening remarks during the meeting, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, reiterated that all issues in contention have been deliberated and agreed upon.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari directed him to by-pass every technicality and resume conciliation with the doctors.
“The National Industrial Court in its wisdom also advised that NARD should keep talking with its employers. So we are tapping into this window of an alternative dispute resolution to ameliorate this situation that is already bad,” Ngige said.
The Minister also said that a certain N4.802 billion provided in the 2021 supplementary budget has been received from the Central Bank and it is being processed by the Budget Office in view to resolving the industrial dispute.
He praised the President of the Nigeria Medical Association, Prof. Innocent Ujah for intervening in the impasse and assuming his role as the leader of all doctors in Nigeria.
He said, “When you talk to the children and they don’t listen well, you talk to their parents. The standing agreement that every negotiation by affiliate associations must be led by the NMA was not observed in the recent past.
“I, therefore, commend Ujah for assuming his role as the father of all doctors. I want you to play this role effectively and efficiently.”
Apart from Ngige, others in attendance included the Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, the Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Dr. Peter Tarfa; and Health, Mamman Mamuda.
Others are the Permanent Secretary, Service Welfare, Office of the Head of Service, Ngozi Onwudiwe; the Director-General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze; the Chairman of National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta; and the representative of the Minister of State, Finance, Budget and Planning.
The representatives of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation as well as the national leadership of the NMA, NARD, MDCAN were also in attendance.
On his part, Mamora urged the doctors to end their strike in the interest of the nation as the government tackles their demands.
But the NMA President, Innocent Ujah, blamed some government functionaries for neglecting their roles, saying that the three-week-old strike was avoidable.
“As doctors, we are trained to prevent disease, cure illnesses and promote health but not trained to go on strike but circumstances force doctors to do otherwise,” he noted.
However, it seems the striking resident doctors are not satisfied with the Memorandum of Action printed by the government and brought to the meeting for their signatures before journalists were asked to exit the meeting for a closed-door parley.