The Nigerian Association of Residents Doctors (NARD) has again threatened to commence a strike if the Nigerian government fails to meet its demands.
The association in a letter addressed to the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, on Monday, and signed by its President, Emeka Orji, said processes for the strike would commence if the demands are not met before its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting scheduled for 24 January.
Resident doctors are doctors undertaking training to become specialists/consultants. They make up the bulk of the doctors in Nigeria’s tertiary hospitals and when the NARD goes on strike, activities are crippled in such hospitals.
About six months ago, the association issued an ultimatum to the government on account of lingering unresolved issues affecting its members, including the irregularities in the new circular on the upward review of the Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF).
The doctors are demanding amongst other things, the immediate implementation, and payment of the new hazard allowance and arrears.
NARD said some arrears for 2014, 2015, and 2016 have remained unpaid despite several negotiations with the government.
It also listed the nonpayment of the consequential adjustment of the minimum wage to some of its members and delays in the upward review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS).
The doctors also highlighted the failure of the government to clear salary arrears of members in state tertiary health institutions including Abia, Imo, Ondo, Ekiti, and Gombe States, and the non-domestication of the Medical Residency Training Act (MRTA) in most states across the federation.
The doctors said although some of the demands have been addressed, many of them remain largely unresolved and have become sources of serious nationwide agitation.
“We sincerely appreciate the efforts of the government through its ministries, departments, and agencies in resolving some of the issues raised.
“However, many of them remain largely unresolved and have now become sources of serious nationwide agitation threatening industrial peace and harmony in the health sector.”
NARD said the major ones amongst them are “Omitted 2020 MRTF payment, irregularities in the new MRTF circular inconsistent with the Medical Residency Training Act, existing collective bargaining agreements and current economic realities and review of CONMESS salary structure.”
The association said it will likely kickstart a nationwide industrial action if its demands are not met in time.
It said chaos may ensue if the government does not take steps to prevent the strike from happening.
“We can confirm very clearly that if these issues are not sorted out before that meeting, our members will likely give us mandate to immediately kick start processes that will lead to a nationwide industrial disharmony in the health sector,” the association wrote.
Addressing incessant strikes
In November 2022, the Nigerian government announced plans to review the salary structure of doctors and other health workers to forestall further industrial action.
Medical doctors and other health workers have downed tools many times in the past over the failure of the government to review the salary structure which they claimed had been due for renegotiation since 2014.
The government had promised to swiftly look into the issue and agree on a resolution. However, no major move has been made to address these issues.
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