By Steve Oko
Doctors in Abia State, Friday, suspended their indefinite strike declared during the immediate-past administration of Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu to protest the backlog of salary arrears owed their colleagues in the state employ.
The suspension was contained in a communique issued at the end of an emergency general meeting of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, held Friday in Umuahia.
According to the communique jointly signed by the NMA Chairman, Dr Isaiah Abali; and Secretary, Daniel Ekeleme, the suspension was sequel to the frank discussions with the new administration in the state which, NMA said, had shown commitment to defray the arrears of salaries.
NMA said Gov. Otti, in his inaugural speech, and through his Special Adviser on Health, “appealed to doctors to suspend the strike and go back to work while giving him the benefit of the doubt to pay off these salaries as promised.”
It read in part:” Following a robust deliberation on the observations mentioned above, NMA Abia State Executive Council, hereby declares the suspension of the total and indefinite strike with effect from Friday, June 9th, 2023.
” By this, all doctors in private, state and federal employ in Abia State should resume work.
” This is to enable the present administration to work and offset the lingering salary arrears.
” With this olive branch extended to the Abia State Government irrespective of the hardship being experienced by doctors under Abia State employ, it is our expectation that the Government would expedite action on payment of the salaries as promised to avert the ugly trend of the recent past”.
NMA noted that:”Doctors in Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH), Hospitals Management Board (HMB) and Ministry of Health are being owed 23, 16 and 2 months salary arrears respectively.
“That the immediate past Abia State Government did not make any reasonable and acceptable commitment to the course of paying the salaries.
“That the present State Government led by His Excellency Dr Alex Otti, at different fora, promised to offset all salaries owed doctors in Abia State by 31st December 2023.”
“That this promise to pay off these salaries was also emphasized by his Special Adviser on Health in a meeting with NMA Abia State Executives on Friday 2nd June 2023.”
The strike which began while Ikpeazu was still in office has lingered for months without the government yielding to the demands of the doctors.