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Fed Govt moves to stop collapse of health sector



Frank Ikpefan and Moses Emorinken, and Bolaji Ogundele Abuja

  • Ngige rushes to Aso Villa, meets with JOHESU tomorrow
  • Doctors reject terms

Fearing a collapse of the health sector with the strike notice served by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), the government at the weekend began moves to restore order.

The JOHESU 15-day notice, served on September 12, followed last week’s 21-day strike notice by the Nigeria Medical Association.

Resident doctors, under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), have been on strike since August 2.

They have been undeterred by the suit filed by the Federal Government at the National Industrial Court and the invocation of the “no-work-no-pay” rule.

Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige rushed to Aso Villa for consultation with President Muhammadu Buhari.

He gave a window of opportunity for resident doctors to end the strike.

Ngige told reporters at the Aso Villa that the government was ready to withdraw the suit if the doctors agreed to call off the strike.

He told The Nation that he would meet with JOHESU tomorrow to stave off their planned strike.

But the resident doctors rejected the minister’s overtures and vowed to continue.

Ngige said: “I am surprised that they are issuing that threat on the issues that are undergoing reconciliation already and which we have almost finished. They are still putting them as part of new issues.

“We have alerted them that they are coming for a meeting on Tuesday (tomorrow).

“They already have our letter of invitation so I am surprised that they are also issuing a threat.

“I got their letter on Friday. We will resolve that when we meet on Tuesday.”

JOHESU is demanding the adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHES), payment of all withheld salaries, review of the implementation of COVID-19 special inducement and hazard allowance, and increase in the retirement age from 60 to 65 for health workers and 70 for consultants.

NARD President Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi yesterday insisted that the strike would not be called off until the Federal Government met the content of the MOU it signed over 120 days ago.

Okhuaihesuyi told The Nation that it was unfortunate that the government resorted to the court instead of finding a creative way to address NARD’s demands.

He said the government could go ahead and punish the resident doctors for not returning to work if it so desired.

“They took us to court, so they are the ones to withdraw the case. Which one is easier? Honouring an MOU or giving excuses?

“Those doctors that have not been paid, have they paid them now? Those that are working in the Ministry should be queried for not doing their own work.

“They are instead giving excuses and running to feed the President with lies.

“They said they have done everything when they have done nothing.

“If they had done what they wrote down over 120 days ago, then we do not need to go on this strike.

Also yesterday, the NMA advised the government to go back to the negotiating table instead of being on the offensive.

Stressing the need to quickly resolve all the contentious issues in the sector, it warned that the health sector risked a collapse.

NMA Secretary-General Dr Ekpe Phillips, said: “The government has to have a holistic approach to solve each and everyone’s problems, so that our people can enjoy health.

“The situation is not good for the masses who are helpless now and cannot do anything.

“It is only the government that can help them by making sure that all these issues are resolved as fast as possible.

Govt won’t succumb to arm-twisting tactics

Ngige said the government would not succumb to arm-twisting by the striking doctors.

The minister, who insisted that existing codes, both locally and internationally must be honoured, including the ‘no-work, no-pay’ provision, added that he was at the Presidential Villa to discuss the state of the health sector with President Buhari.

He said: “As you well know, the resident doctors are still on strike, their strike has now entered the 33rd day today(yesterday).

“Meanwhile, the government is doing everything possible to make sure they get back to work.

“Out of their 12-point issues raised in their demands, we have done all, we have come to agreements on all, including those that even affect the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria and medical doctors who are in academics and teaching universities.

“So, we have handled all, the only point of disagreement now is that they said that the agreements and the memorandum of action, the government should inserts, include that Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act will not apply to them.”

He pointed out that the government had before now applied the ‘no work, no pay’ rule on some unions that embarked on strike.

Ngige added: “As a government, succumb to undue arm twisting and then go and sign that. Other workers have lost their pay during strikes; JOHESU lost their pay in 2018 when they went on four months strike, they lost about two or three months pay when the no-work, no-pay was invoked.

“I briefed Mr. President and we’ve agreed that they should come back to work and if they do, we can take other things from there; we’ll drop the case in court and then they will come back and get things done.

“We have done the first round of scrutinisation and they will now compare what they have with the Post-Graduate Medical College and the Chief Medical Directors who submitted their names.

“We discovered that about 2,000 names shouldn’t be there because they don’t have what is called Postgraduate Reference Numbers of National Postgraduate Medical College and (or) that of the West African Postgraduate Medical College.

“This is it and that is the only thing holding back the Residency Fund payment because it is there already. Once they verify the authenticity of those they are submitting, the Accountant-General will pay.”



Seven killed, 140 injured in Sudan coup protest



Seven people have reportedly died and about 140 others wounded after soldiers opened fire on crowds opposing a military takeover in Sudan.

Many people took to the streets after the armed forces dissolved civilian rule, arrested political leaders and called a state of emergency on Monday.

Troops are reported to have been going house to house in the capital Khartoum arresting local protest organisers.

The coup has been condemned around the world, and the US halted $700m in aid.

The leader of the coup, Gen Abdel Fattah Burhan, blamed political infighting for the military action.

Civilian leaders and their military counterparts have been at odds since long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was overthrown two years ago.

As night fell on Monday, large numbers of protesters were on the streets of Khartoum – and other cities – demanding the return of civilian rule, BBC Arabic’s Mohamed Osman reports from the capital.

One wounded protestor told reporters he was shot in the leg by the army outside the military headquarters, while another man described the military firing first stun grenades, then live ammunition.

“Two people died, I saw them with my own eyes,” said Al-Tayeb Mohamed Ahmed. Sudan’s doctor’s union and the information ministry also wrote on Facebook that the fatal shootings had happened outside the military compound.

Our correspondent says that despite the violence, the protests show few signs of easing.

Demonstrators have blocked roads with piles of bricks and burning tyres. Many women are also taking part, shouting “no to military rule”.

The city’s airport is closed and international flights are suspended. The internet and most phone lines are also down.

Central Bank staff have reportedly gone on strike and across the country, doctors are said to be refusing to work in military run hospitals except in emergencies.


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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.

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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.

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