The President of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD), Muhammed Askira, says the ultimatum given to the Federal Government by the association is due to government’s delay in meeting the demands of the resident doctors.
The doctors had given a 21-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to address their issues or face a nationwide strike.
Dr. Askira was the guest of Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Friday and he explained that the issues were mainly about their Residency Training Programme and what he called ‘Remuneration Injustice’.
Mr Askira explained that over the years, the Residency Training Programme had not been provided with a template or guiding policy that was uniformly applied in all the training institutions.
“There is no uniform template for employment, there are no enough spaces for intake of resident doctors and also the National Postgraduate College that is supposed to be coordinating the activities and accreditation of the training institutions is not adequately funded,” he said.
The implication, according to him, is that training institutions and resident doctors have had to scramble for funds to sponsor resident doctors for update courses.
“If you look at it, the residency training programme, as the only postgraduate medical training programme in Nigeria for producing medical specialists, not funded is not acceptable,” he added.
He further disclosed that the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Tetfund), which was set aside by previous governments, had not been covering the medical profession.
He appealed to the present administration to come to the aid of the NARD.
Dr. Askira cited the salary challenges being faced by their members working for state governments as another issue the association wants addressed.
He mentioned Osun, Oyo, Imo and Abia as states where their members have spent between three to eight months without their salaries.
Referring to Osun State as the worst, he wondered why the state government would not heed the cries of the doctors who had been considerate enough not to down tools during a period when all workers in the state did.
“When the bailout came, the government settled the backlog of the salaries of all workers and when they found out they could not continue paying the salaries, what is the normal thing to do? You call everybody to have an understanding.
“The government saw reasons to call only the other workers and not the resident doctors in LAUTECH and with the other workers they now agreed to a percentage of salaries, just for the resident doctors to wake up in July and find 46% of their salaries (unpaid).”
Before the Ultimatum
Asked if there had been efforts to resolve the issues with government before the issuance of an ultimatum, Dr Askira said that the association was left with no option, as every attempt to bring the Federal Government to the negotiation table failed.
“Since I assumed office on September 15 last year till today, as I am talking to you, there is no single working day that I am not in Abuja. I am primarily employed in Maiduguri, doing a posting in Kano but I am always in Abuja.
“Sometimes I go into some of the offices and they would not even allow me in and I would sit down and wait for them. Simply because of one fact, we want to see that constructive engagement takes precedence to dispute but at times you have no choice.
“This ultimatum is supposed to have even come since October last year but our members showed restraint, maturity because when we heard the President of the country saying impatience is not a virtue, we say patience is a virtue, lets be patient.
“There was even a circular from the same ministry saying that some of these things would be implemented by January 2016 and we waited till January.
“We delayed, constructively engaging them until now when we found out that unfortunately maybe these people are just like the old ones who understand only ultimatum and strike,” he said.
On Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari urged the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to shelve its threatened strike and give the Federal Government more time to address the doctor’s grievances.
President Buhari made the appeal at a meeting with the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Abuja.
He gave the doctors an assurance that no agreements duly entered into by the Federal Government would be dishonoured by his administration.