The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) on Monday met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, over its planned industrial action.
This is according to a statement issued on Monday and signed by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, Lanre Lasisi.
The statement indicates that the speaker held a meeting with the association and officials of the Federal Ministry of Health at the National Assembly, on Monday, to resolve all pending issues.
At the end of the meeting, the statement said Mr Gbajabiamila ”was able to convince both parties to reach an agreement on how to settle the matter”.
The union had in May given the government a 40-day ultimatum to pay outstanding salary shortfalls and arrears of its members.
According to the statement, the speaker had last week through a member of the House appealed to the resident doctors to suspend the strike action, pending a meeting with him, members of the association and officials of relevant government agencies.
The President of NARD, Olusegun Olaopa, reportedly explained to the speaker and other principal officers of the House, including Deputy Speaker Ahmed Wase, that ”they had three major grievances against the federal government”.
The three grievances, he said, had to do with their salary arrears, skipped salaries of N23.6 billion and irregularities in the implementation of the Resident Doctors’ Act.
However, the statement said Mr Gbajabiamila was able to get a commitment from both the Federal Ministries of Finance and Health that the salary arrears would be ready for payment in the next three weeks.
Mr Gbajabiamila also reportedly sympathised with the association for losing one of its members in the struggle to resolve the issues.
“Let me thank you for according this House and this institution the respect of putting your strike on hold.
“I want to assure you that the respect is mutual. We are here for you; we are here to protect you, and in doing that, we also protect our constituents. When you talk about essential services, the most important is health services, because you save lives. So, we know the consequences of your going on strike. Since we all know the consequences, we should be serious about the issue.
“Ours is to appeal to you using the instrumentality of this House. The issue of your N3.5 billion. I can almost assure you that that will be resolved next month. There’s already machinery in motion to ensure that it is paid by next month.
“In the presence of everyone here, finance (ministry) is committing three weeks and you’ll get your pay. As a house, we’ll make sure we follow through. So, for the sake of lives, on that particular one, I beg you to tarry a while,” he was quoted as saying.
On the Resident Doctors’ Act, the Speaker said the House would do everything within its powers to ensure that the House Committee on Health provided effective oversight to the relevant agencies.
He assured that the House would ensure the inclusion of the N23.6 billion skipped salary due to the doctors in the 2020 budget, which is yet to be presented to the National Assembly.
“We’re going to put our reputation on the line and try to see how we can get the Executive to bring whatever is agreeable and due to them (NARD) into the budget. On our part, we will make sure that whatever is due to you forms part of the 2020 budget.
“But I’m asking now that you should exercise some little patience to see what we can do on our own so that we can arrest this issue. For the sake of people out there, let’s hold on. Once the N3.5 billion is paid, you can take it from there that the 2020 budget will have the N23.6 billion.”
In his response, Mr Olaopa reportedly said ”the association would wait for the three weeks.”
The meeting, which lasted for close to two hours, had in attendance the Deputy Speaker; House Leader, Alhassan Doguwa; Deputy Chief Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha and other members of the House.
There were also officials from the Federal Ministries of Finance and Health; the Director-General, Budget Office; Ben Akabueze; members of NARD and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), among others.
Discussions ongoing – NARD
Meanwhile, when PREMIUM TIMES contacted the president of NARD, Mr Olaopa on Monday, he responded via a text message.
“Our discussion is ongoing. Everybody was to go and play their part and we update the House of Representatives. Ours is to meet our members on our next plan, following the ongoing negotiations,” he said.