Minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige has expressed that the federal government did its best to prevent the current strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).
Speaking on Friday, when he addressed the quarterly meeting of the Nigerian health commissioners’ forum in Abuja, the minister stated that the federal government took several steps to meet the demands of the doctors.
Ngige’s position was contained in a statement titled ‘We Did Everything Possible to Stop Doctors’ Strike –FG’, and signed by Charles Akpan, deputy director, press and public relations in the ministry,
Ngige stated that the doctors were “sleeping on their rights until COVID-19 pandemic broke out last year”, and the federal government decided to review the N5,000 hazard allowance paid to them since 1991.
He said doctors and other health workers were paid “bumper money” as special COVID hazard allowance for three months in the first instance, to the tune of N32 billion, while states were told to pay as much as they could afford.
He also gave a breakdown of what has happened in relation to the doctors’ strike from September 2020 till date.
“In September 2020, they put a notice of strike, asking for Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF), by which each of them will get N542,000 to cover cost of books and journals for that particular examination, transportation and lodging for three days,” the statement reads.
“Luckily, a supplementary budget was being put together and it was included and was paid to them. They called off the strike.
“By March this year, they listed other things again. They said the Residency Training Fund is not in 2021 budget. They also needed the hazard allowance to be upgraded and demanded that States should domesticate Residency Training Act.
“They said some states owed their people long months of salaries. They also wanted skipping allowance and arrears of consequential adjustment to minimum wage. Before we could say Jack Robinson, they went on strike on April 1. I thought it was April fool until April 2 when we didn’t see them at work.
“I told them that they didn’t give the mandatory 21 days notice to their employers who have written to me to complain. However, we returned to the table. Government pledged that the 2021 Residency Training Fund will be captured in the supplementary budget. This has been done and payment is ready.”