Following an exhaustive meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have hinted that they are ready to suspend their planned resumption of strike on Friday, May 7.
The doctors, at the resumption of the meeting with Gbajabiamila which began last week, said they would suspend the planned resumption of the strike as soon as they got payment for their salary arrears ranging from one to five months.
They took the position after the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said funds were available for the payment, assuring that her ministry would pay immediately a verified list of the beneficiaries was received.
However, when the Director-General of the Budget Office, Mr Ben Akabueze, who was one of the stakeholders at the meeting, confirmed that his office was in receipt of the list, the minister gave her word that payment would be made by May 7.
The resident doctors had on April 1 embarked on an indefinite strike, making some demands, which included non-payment of house officers, abolishment of bench fees, non-payment of national minimum wage, salary shortfall for 2014, 2015 and 2016, residency training allowance, and payment of resident doctors on GIFMIS platform.
All the issues raised by the doctors were resolved, except that of salary shortfall for 2014, 2015 and 2016. The issue involves all health workers with a cost implication of about N23 billion, which the Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, described as “huge and complicated.”
Also, there were claims that a case on the matter was before a court, which the Speaker asked the Ministry of Health, Dr Osahie Ehanire, to produce the relevant court papers to back the claim as the resident doctors said their checks revealed there was no pending court case anywhere on the matter.
It was then agreed jointly by the doctors, the House led by the Speaker and officials of the ministry of health that the matter should be set aside until court papers were provided.
Others present at the meeting, which lasted up to late Tuesday evening, were the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu; Minority Whip, Gideon Gwani; Chairman House Committee on Healthcare Services, Tanko Sununu, among others.
On the part of the Executive arm, there were Dr Ehanire; Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Folasade Yemi-Esan; Chairman of the Committee of CMDs, Dr Jafaru Momoh; the NARD President, Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, among others.
Recall that since he assumed office, Gbajabiamila has been on the issue of the resident doctors, who had threatened to embark on strike at different times.