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NMA, others threaten to join resident doctors strike sept 18

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– 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.

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Obasanjo: I regret making Atiku my running mate in 1999

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday said one of his mistakes in life was picking former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as his running mate during the 1999 presidential election.

He stated this Abeokuta, Ogun State, duringan event held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library.

Obasanjo was responding to questions posed by students from selected secondary schools that participated in the final of the National Exhibition and Awards organised by Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE).

Obasanjo and his former number two man, Atiku had a running battle during the build up to the 2003 elections.

He said he had made many “genuine” mistakes in his life, but God made him to overcome.

The former President said, “One of the mistakes I made was picking my Number Two (referring to Atiku) when I wanted to become the President. But because it was a genuine mistake, God saved me.

“The second one (mistake) was when Abacha wanted to arrest me. When Abacha wanted to arrest me, I was told by the American ambassador that they would arrest me and that America had asked that I should be given an asylum. I said no. It could have been a mistake because I could have lost my life.

“I will say there are many things that could have been mistakes but God saved me from them all.”

Obasanjo lamented the current trend of recycling of old politicians in elective positions, stressing that young Nigerians would not have chance to exhibit themselves if the trends continued.

He also spoke on opportunities for the youths to take over the mantle of leadership in the country.

Obasanjo bemoaned the trend of money politics in the country, which he noted would make it difficult for young Nigerians to participate in politics.

He however urged the youths to remain hopeful even in the face of money politics.

He said, “Another thing inhibiting youth from running is the amount of money involved in going into politics. I hope that things should not continue like this.

“I was 39 years old when I became the military Head of State. Twenty years later, I came back as civilian president, but those there now do not want to allow the youths. If things continue like this, I do not know how you can come in.”

 

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Buhari to Boris Johnson: No third term for me — first person who tried didn’t end well

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President Muhammadu Buhari and UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson

President Muhammadu Buhari has told UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that there is no possibility of him seeking a third term in office.

The president spoke on Thursday during a bilateral meeting with Johnson on the sideline of the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda.

According to Femi Adesina, presidential spokesperson, the British prime minister had asked if Buhari would run for office again, and he responded by saying: “Another term for me? No! The first person who tried it didn’t end very well.”

The president also denied that Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), was not being allowed to see his lawyers.

He said the separatist activist is provided with every opportunity under the law “to justify all the uncomplimentary things he had been saying against Nigeria in Britain”.

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“He felt very safe in Britain and said awful things against Nigeria. We eventually got him when he stepped out of the United Kingdom, and we sent him to court,” Buhari said.

“Let him defend all that he has said there. His lawyers have access to him. Remember he jumped bail before, how are we sure he won’t do it again if he’s admitted to bail?”

Speaking on the Boko Haram insurgency, Buhari said serious efforts are underway to educate the people on the fact that only an “unserious person” could kill innocent people and ascribe it to God.

“And the education process is working, the people now understand Boko Haram as anti-God, and not about religion,” he said.

In his remarks, Johnson expressed delight in the trade relations between both countries, adding that the UK was further reducing tariffs on some goods going to Nigeria.

“I just want to be sure that we are doing enough. It’s a massive partnership for us, and we need to capitalise on it,” he said.

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Buhari rules out bail option for Kanu

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Nnamdi Kanu

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Thursday, ruled out bail for the detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.

He said Kanu, who is currently on trial, was being given every opportunity under the law “to justify all the uncomplimentary things said against Nigeria while he was in Britain.”

This was as he reiterated his commitment to leave office for the next administration in May 2023.

According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President said this at a bilateral meeting with the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on the margins of the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.

The statement was titled ‘Another term for me? No! The first person who tried it didn’t end very well.’

On notions that Kanu was not allowed to see his lawyers privately, the President said the detained separatist is being given every opportunity under the law “to justify all the uncomplimentary things he said against Nigeria while he was in Britain.

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“He felt very safe in Britain and said awful things against Nigeria. We eventually got him when he stepped out of the United Kingdom, and we sent him to court. Let him defend all that he said there.”

He said considering Kanu’s jumping of bail earlier, the Federal Government may not consider granting him such a privilege anymore.

Buhari said, “His (Kanu’s) lawyers have access to him. Remember he jumped bail before, how are we sure he won’t do it again if he’s admitted to bail?”

On the keenness expressed by the PM to help Nigeria in the area of security, the President said helping to stabilise Libya could be an initial good step, as the fall of Muammar Gaddafi after 42 years in power unleashed his armed guards on countries in the Sahel, “and they are causing havoc everywhere, as the only thing they know how to do is to shoot guns.”

On the Boko Haram insurgency, Buhari said there is a serious effort to educate the people on the fact that only an unserious person could kill innocent people, “and say Allah Akbar (God is Great). God is justice. You can’t take innocent souls, and ascribe it to God. The education process is working and the people now understand Boko Haram as anti-God, and not about religion.”

On his part, the British PM, obviously not quite familiar with the maximum two-term limit, asked if Buhari would run for office again.

“Another term for me? No! The first person who tried it didn’t end very well,” Buhari said amidst general laughter.

PM Johnson said he was delighted about the good news on trade between the two countries, adding that the UK was further reducing tariffs on some goods going to Nigeria.

He described the relationship between the countries as “very strong attachment,” adding, “I just want to be sure that we are doing enough. It’s a massive partnership for us and we need to capitalise on it.”

Johnson offered condolences on some recent attacks in Nigeria, particularly on churches.

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