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You’ve lost all legal, moral justification for strike, Ngige tells NARD

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You've lost all legal, moral justification for strike, Ngige tells NARD
Dr. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, on Wednesday, appealed to the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, to call off its strike as it has lost all moral and legal ground to continue it’s seven days old action.

Speaking to newsmen in Abuja today, the  Minister said the Federal Government has not only substantially met the Seven-Point demand by NARD, it has also demonstrated transparency in their 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.

READ ALSO: Striking doctors‘ve lost legal, moral justification — FG

He said even though some of these house officers were recruited outside the quota allocated by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, 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.

He said, “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.”

The Minister further said the President of NARD, Dr. Uyi has also acknowledged, 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, adding that it was for that reason 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  N9.3b to 13 insurance companies to insure 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 is yet to assist and pressurize these hospitals to make such returns.”

Ngige in a statement issued by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Charles Akpan 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 from the tune of N4 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 Covi-19 and the Speaker of the House Reps. Hon. 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 percent 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, (medical officers) who are not in training in the list of payment complied and certified by NARD.

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“Yes, some doctors who are not supposed to benefit, benefitted 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 said.

The Minister 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 it (NARD).

He said the government however urged NARD to exercise patience

Senator Ngige 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), ” he said.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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