– Medical bodies to give FG 21-day ultimatum
– Forum of health institutions’ chairmen seek end to NARD strike
– Ngige: Striking doctors begrudge government’s generosity, want to act above law
The three-week-old strike embarked upon by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) assumed a new dimension on Saturday with threats by three other associations of medical doctors to join them if pending issues are not resolved before September 18.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), the Medical and Dental Consultants’ Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) and the Medical and Dental Doctors in Academics (MEDSABAM) unanimously agreed to join their counterparts in NARD if the Federal Government fails to resolve all the pending issues.
The threats coincided with calls by the Forum of Chairmen of Health Institutions in Nigeria (FCHIN) for quick resolution of the ongoing strike by resident doctors.
At a just concluded National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the NMA, the various medical bodies agreed to send a letter to the Federal Government to register their displeasure and give it a 21-day ultimatum, which will lapse on September 18, 2021.
The NEC frowned at the instruction for immediate implementation of the “No Work, No Pay” rule issued by the Federal Ministry of Health to the Chief Medical Directors and Medical Directors of Federal Tertiary Institutions.
The rule applies to all resident doctors and other medical professionals who have failed to report to work since August 2.
It will be recalled that MDCAN had on August 15 resolved to shelve its planned strike while it gave the Federal Government a four-week grace to reverse the removal of the Consultants from the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) to the Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure (CONUASS) by their employing universities.
MEDSABAM had also given the federal government a four-week ultimatum to resolve its issues.
Speaking with The Nation correspondent in Abuja yesterday, the Chairman of Communication and Communique of the NARD, Dr Julian Ojebo, said: “The National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) held from Wednesday till the early hours of this morning (yesterday).
“The crux of the matter was the Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors’ strike, and the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with the NMA.
“There is also the issue of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) pending strike. MDCAN gave the government a four-week ultimatum to fulfill their demands.
“Also, there was the issue of the Medical and Dental Doctors in Academics (MEDSABAM) pending strike. MEDSABAM also gave the government a four-week ultimatum.
“These and many more issues were also discussed at the meeting.
“However, the highlight of the meeting was item number 6, which was the NARD strike.
“Discussions on item number 6 lasted for seven hours where state chairmen and secretaries, alongside all the committee members, debated on the issues surrounding the NARD strike, and the need for the NMA to put forth a strongly worded letter to the government – the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
“During the meeting, most members of the NEC were made aware of the implementation of the ‘No Work No Pay’ which is against the backdrop of the signatures of the memorandum of understanding, which goes to show that government has already reneged on the MoU they had with the NMA.
“After these, motions were moved and it was unanimously agreed that a 21-day ultimatum, which expires on the 18th of September, be given to the Federal Government, after which the Nigerian Medical Association will embark on a total indefinite strike.
“If the government does not resolve all pending issues before those 21 days, the NMA will be left with nothing than to join the doctors – NARD, MDCAN, MEDSABAM, in a total indefinite strike.
“The NMA NEC also frowned at the circular from the Office of the Head of Service removing house officers from the scheme of service and ordered that the NMA approaches the Head of Service for immediate withdrawal of that circular, and also place caution on the Ministry of Health and the Office of the Head of Service of Lagos State against adopting that heinous circular from the Head of Service of the Federation.
“The meeting was attended by 37 Chairmen and Secretaries of the various NMA plus the FCT, Committee Chairmen and Secretaries, President of Affiliates and other observers.
“Also present were past presidents and secretaries and the President of the Commonwealth Medical Association, Dr Osahon Enabulele.”
The Forum of Chairmen of Health Institutions in Nigeria (FCHIN) yesterday called for quick resolution of the ongoing strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors.
The body said the continued resort to strike by health workers disrupt services, adding that it does not portray the country in good light.
The forum said it would meet with the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association and representatives of the Federal Ministry of Health to find solution to incessant strike in the health sector.
The chairman of the forum, Dr. Sam Jaja, who led the leadership of the forum to a meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige in Abuja, said the forum would choose a four-pronged approach to resolve the dispute.
A statement issued by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, yesterday frowned at the frequent resort to strike by doctors.
“Strike should be the last resort when every other effort has been exhausted in terms of finding solution to whatever the problem is.
“But for any little thing, you resort to disruption of services; it does not portray the country in good light.
“It does not also portray the profession in good light, especially such a profession that has to do with the preservation of human lives.
“The Committee of Chief Medical Directors (CMDS) briefed us and it is just exactly what you have narrated.
“All hope was that the meeting of last week where all the affiliates of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) except NARD signed the MOU would resolve the strike.
“We feel so concerned the strike hasn’t been called off.
“It makes them (doctors) insensitive, and that is not right. For whatever reason, I think we should nip it in the bud. That is what we as Forum of Chairmen of Health Institutions of Nigeria are in for.
“We need to find a solution to this. It is not good for us and it is not good for them.
“I bet that as you are solving this problem, others are warming up to start theirs.
“We can’t allow them to continue. We must find a permanent solution.
“As the representatives of their employers, we can’t continue to fold our hands over this constant disruption of health services in the country.
“Our plan was to meet first with the NMA, NARD and the Ministry of Health before coming to you.
“Incidentally, you are the first to open your doors to us. So, we came to intimate you with our plans. We will return when we round off meeting with them,” the statement said.
Striking doctors want to act above law — Ngige
Ngige faulted the ongoing strike, describing it as unjustifiable and unwarranted, even as he said the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with doctors on August 21 was on course.
He said government had adopted a holistic approach to tackling the challenges in the health sector, noting that some of the issues in contention cut across sectors.
He added that government bent backwards to improve the ease of practice of medicine in the country despite dwindling resources.
The statement said: “The resident doctors are on the scheme of service against which obtained earlier. There was nothing like that when we started practice.
“Nigeria is also about the only country that has the Medical Residency Training Fund backed up by an act, Medical Residency Training Act, passed into law by this administration in 2018.
“N4.8 billion is already in 2021 Service Wide Vote for this – to cover exam fees, books, travel to exam centres and accommodation. We are battling to meet up the timeline on this.
“As a matter of fact, the Residency Training Fund for 2021 is a borrowed fund. It is part of the deficit budget funded by the World Bank and IMF.
“Now that the President has signed the law governing it, with signatures appended, we can access this fund through the CBN and from there to the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget Office and to the Accountant General of the Federation.
“But it is not what you achieve in a day. It takes some time. But these young doctors will hear none of that.
“Take the issue of hazard allowance. It was even the Federal Government who noticed the paltry sum doctors and health workers receive and said no during the peak of COVID-19 pandemic last year.
“Considering the dangers they face, government took the bull by the horn, approved and released a jumbo, the sum of N32 billion as hazard allowance.
“We felt this is commensurate with the dangers of the pandemic and immediately after, felt the need to re-negotiate and give them something more meaningful than the N5000 they were earning since 20 years and kept quiet.
“Now that we have invited them for re-negotiation, they turned round to make it an issue, claiming that the process is too slow.
“Meanwhile, they are the ones causing the delay. NMA and JOHESU can’t agree on the table.
“Right now, the two have written to me to say they won’t negotiate together again.
“NMA said that they must compartmentalise into clinical and non-clinical, and that the people who are clinical should take more money.
‘JOHESU said no, we don’t want clinical and non-clinical. We have clinical and non-clinical people but the hazard is the same because we are working in the same hospital environment.
“So, who do you blame for the delay? Government or doctors and JOHESU?”
Ngige said all the issues contained in the MoU, ranging from arrears of the consequential adjustment of the national minimum wage to skipping allowance and bench fees, among others, have successfully been tackled at the meeting of 20 and 21 August, and all affiliates of the NMA signed the MOA with NARD dissenting.
He said: “NARD wants a particular clause to be inserted in the agreement that section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act should not apply to them. That we should insert in it a government agreement that they should be paid for the period they are not at work.
“I’m being careful about this. This is law and I will not lend myself to illegality to state in the agreement that a group of Nigerians are above the law. But as a matter of fact, a clause in that agreement states clearly that nobody should be punished for participating or not participating in the strike.
“So, what else do they want? They want me to put it in writing that they are above the law. That ‘No work No pay’ should not apply to them. That ‘No work, No pay’ is no more part of our law, despite the fact that I swore to uphold the constitution?
“This is notwithstanding that a clause in the agreement says that no one should be punished for any role in the strike. This is why they refused to sign the MOU and call off the strike, and not because government has not substantially met their demands.”
The minister further urged the officials in the parent ministries of the unions in perennial strikes to sit up and effectively play their roles.
“Whether you are talking about ASUU, SSANU, NMA, JOHESU, etc., their employers are the federal ministries of education and health respectively. Those Ministries should do their work with their employees.
“The employers of workers under these unions should take care of them. Here, I’m only a conciliator, but the load is much because some people aren’t doing their beat,” the statement said.
Sudan military declares state of emergency after coup, shuts down internet
Sudan’s military leader has declared a state of emergency across the country and dissolved its transitional cabinet, which is seen as a huge blow to the country’s already fragile transition to democracy.
Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan made a televised announcement on Monday as thousands of pro-democracy protesters flooded the streets of the capital Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman, after soldiers arrested several government officials.
Among those detained on Monday is Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. He was moved to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the coup, said the information ministry, still apparently under the control of Hamdok’s supporters.
The military also raided the television and radio headquarters and shut down the internet. The capital’s airport has been also closed, together with some of the city’s roads and bridges.
At least 12 people have been wounded so far in the protests that have been called by the pro-democracy coalition born out of the uprising which put an end to the 30-year long rule of Omar al-Bashir.
In his announcement, Burhan said that the military will continue the process towards democracy, but dissolved the sovereign council, a joint military and civilian body created to run the country since al-Bashir’s removal.
“We have started our path towards the state of freedom and peace but some political powers are still trying to maintain everything in their hands, without giving attention to political, economic and social threats,” he said.
Al-Burhan said the military will appoint a technocratic government to lead the country to elections, set for July 2023.
But he made clear the military will remain in charge.
“The Armed Forces will continue completing the democratic transition until the handover of the country’s leadership to a civilian, elected government,” al-Burhan said.
The move came just before the military was supposed to hand leadership of the country’s joint military-civilian administration to civilians next month.
The information ministry called his speech an “announcement of a seizure of power by military coup”.
Tensions have been rising for weeks between Sudan’s civilian and military leadership over Sudan’s course and the pace of the transition to democracy.
Sudan: UN condemns military takeover, PM detention
The United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has condemned the military coup in Sudan, and called for the release of the prime minister and other officials.
He said this in a tweet Monday
In a military takeover on Monday morning, Sudan’s armed forces dissolved a governing council that included civilians and detained the prime minister and other civilian officials, endangering the country’s transition to democracy.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, his wife and members of Sudan’s cabinet were detained and taken to an undisclosed location.
In a security alert posted Monday, the US Embassy said it “has received reports that armed forces are blocking certain areas in and around Khartoum” and “internet in Khartoum is non-functional.”
Guterres said the UN would “continue to stand” with the people of the country.
“I condemn the ongoing military coup in Sudan. Prime Minister Hamdok & all other officials must be released immediately. There must be full respect for the constitutional charter to protect the hard-won political transition. The UN will continue to stand with the people of Sudan.”
An aide and office director of Sudan’s now-arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told CNN that the premier was aware of army plans and was under pressure to dissolve the government.
The adviser, Adam al-Hireika, said that he visited Hamdok on Sunday evening where he discussed the current state-of-affairs.
Hamdok had just met with army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who declared the coup on state-TV on Monday.
“I say he was cautiously optimistic that there was an opening for agreement, but I think the military side wanted him to dissolve the government and he insisted on not unless there is a process and there is an agreement between political parties,” he told CNN’s Becky Anderson.
“This morning, when I heard about what happened I went to the PM’s residence, he is my boss and friend. I went to his residence unfortunately he wasn’t there. His wife and him were taken to an unknown destination by soldiers,” he added.
Burhan said in a statement that power-shared council and government were dissolved and declared a state of emergency after a balanced power-sharing agreement with the civilian component “became a conflict” over the past two years, “threatening peace and unity” in Sudan.
“What, General Burhan mentions in his address, actually what most of a lot of it was agreed between the two parties, but as the PM stood very strongly against dissolving the government without a process. I think that was the biggest issue of contention,” Hireika said.
Hireika warned of a civil war in Sudan if there was a return to military rule. “
“Well, I think the bigger picture, a return to military rule will mean more civil war in Sudan and instability in the region as a result,” he added.
Amnesty International calls on Sudan authorities “to respect human rights” following military takeover
From CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq
Amnesty International has urged the authorities in Sudan “to respect human rights” following the arrest of the country’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other officials in an apparent coup.
“We are concerned by the escalating tensions in Sudan following the reported arrest of the Prime Minister and other civilian leaders and the imposition of an internet shutdown,” Amnesty International said in a post to Twitter on Monday.
Amnesty International “calls on the authorities in Sudan to respect human rights—including the right to life, right to freedom of association, expression and assembly, both offline and on the internet. The right to peaceful protest must be respected, now more than ever.”
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s armed forces, dissolved the power-sharing Sovereign Council and transitional government, saying in a televised statement that an “independent and fair representative government” would assume power until one is elected in 2023. Burhan also announced a state of emergency across Sudan.
Several articles of the constitution were suspended and state governors were removed, Burhan said.
Those arrested by “joint military forces” include various civilian ministers of Sudan’s transitional government and members of Sudan’s sovereign council, the Information Ministry said. CNN could not independently verify the Information Ministry’s claims, however family members said the Minister of Information was one of several senior officials detained.
Protesters who opposed the coup have taken to the streets in the capital Khartoum and have faced gunfire near the military’s headquarters, according to the information ministry.
Boko Haram attacks Yobe military base, three soldiers injured
Three soldiers were wounded on Saturday when Boko Haram insurgents attacked a military base at Katarko village in the Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State.
The reportedly insurgents drove into Katarko village in about 10 gun trucks and attacked the military formation.
They were said to have engaged the security operatives at the base in a gun duel.
The Cable reports that troops of the Nigerian Army, who repelled the attack, alongside airstrikes by the Nigerian Air Force, were said to have killed many of the insurgents.
However, a precise number of fatalities had not been ascertained as of the time of filing this report. It was only gathered that three soldiers were injured in the attack.
“Two to three soldiers were injured and have been taken to hospital in Damaturu for treatment,” the source said, adding, “Many Boko Haram members are also feared dead. They were struck by foot soldiers and air support.”
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