As different countries of the world struggle to contain the coronavirus crisis, doctors in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Monday announced they were proceeding on an “indefinite strike” starting from September 1 by 8 a.m.
The Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), Abuja chapter, announced its decision in a communique issued after a consultative meeting held in Abuja on Saturday.
It came as Nigeria’s coronavirus outbreak appear to be taking a downward turn.
“Having put into cognisance previous failed promises and widespread agitations among our members in the various FCT Hospitals and workers in the isolation and treatment centres, we sadly regret to notify the administration and by extension the general public that the association would embark on a strike action with effect from 8am 1st September 2020 until the payment of the covid-19 hazard and inducement allowance is received and the variation of the 2018 promotion exercise implemented after which an emergency meeting will be conveyed to review the situation,” the communique read in part.
Roland Aigbovo, the president of the NARD Abuja chapter, confirmed the doctor’s decision in a phone interview with PREMIUM TIMES Monday evening.
He said they deliberated extensively on the health threat posed by the coronavirus, their work conditions, and patient care before arriving at the “difficult decision.”
Mr Aigbovo said their members have been thrown into financial distress due to the nonpayment of their salaries, allowances and despite repeated warnings and ultimatum, nothing has been done by authorities.
The ARD are protesting among other issues, non-payment of COVID-19 allowances, rural allowances, and non-remittance of 3rd party deductions.
The doctors had embarked on strike over similar issues on March 17 but suspended it after umbrella body, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) intervened.
Hazard pay, a wage supplement paid to workers who do dangerous jobs, has been the grouse of Nigerian health workers since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Health workers, being the first respondents to patients have continued to be at risk of exposure to COVID-19 virus.
The Nigerian government had promised a special COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowance of 50 per cent of Consolidated Basic Salary to health workers in Nigerian Teaching Hospitals, Federal Medical Centres (FMCs), and designated COVID-19 centres.
Prior to this, health workers receive N5,000 as hazard pay across board.
The National Association of Resident Doctors, certified doctors undergoing residency to become consultants, had embarked on a one-week strike to protest among other issues, non-payment of hazard pay.
It was suspended on June 21 after the federal government said it has released N4.5 billion to 31 federal teaching and medical centres across the country as payment for hazard and inducement allowances for April and May.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, also assured doctors of the payment of June hazard allowance from August 10.
But Mr Aigbovo said those payments were for federal health workers. “We are under the FCT management and not federal. We have not received any hazard allowance since April and that is one of the major reasons we are embarking on strike”.
The official said the doctors in isolation centres will also join the industrial action.
“We implore the administration to as a matter of urgency, look into the other myriads of problems raised in our earlier communication to the administration dated 14th August, 2020 so as to maintain industrial harmony in the health sector as these are becoming very disturbing and already raising a lot of eyebrows within our members and other health unions within the territory. These are hereby underlisted for the purpose of clarity,” the communique read.