Strike: Why we refused to sign MoU — Doctors
Striking resident doctors said yesterday that they declined to append their signature to the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with the federal government because they had the feeling they were being punished for the failure of government.
The doctors, operating under the aegis of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, also vowed to continue the ongoing strike until their demands were met.
National President of NARD, Dr. Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, stated this after the meeting between the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, stakeholders in the medical sector and the Federal Government.
The meeting was at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari who directed the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, to ensure all contentious issues that led to the strike were resolved.
The NMA attended the meeting only to intervene for the resident doctors.
After the meeting which lasted for hours, the NARD president said they would proceed with the case at the National Industrial Court, NIC, having refused to sign the MoU.
“We rejected the MoU, we didn’t sign it because we feel we are being punished for the failures of those in government,’’ Uyilawa said.
But speaking earlier, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige, said the federal government will commence the implementation of its Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with the NMA today.
The Minister in his opening remarks at the all-stakeholders meeting, told journalists that they had reached agreements the previous night on all the 12 disputed issues, adding that implementation would start from the next working day (today)
Regarding the issue of non-payment of some house officers, the Minister said NARD was expected to submit the list of the affected 114 officers for further verification, adding that when confirmed that they were genuine, and their IPPIS particulars and BVN were in order, they would be paid in September with the outstanding arrears.
He said an agreement was reached on the Residency Training Fund outstanding for 2020 and 2021, after the Budget Office had explained that N617, 429, 121 was the outstanding to be paid in the 2020.
The minister said: “There are reconciliations to be done here because 2020 was done with some errors. Some people who are not supposed to benefit from the fund got money and because of that, the number of genuine people that were not paid also came to that quantum of persons.
“So, reconciliation is being done and some monies are being returned. We have given a timeline for this reconciliation to be done. And for 2021, the money approved by government is N4.802 billion.
‘’This money as I said earlier, was contained in the 2021 Supplementary Budget, which the President signed on the eve of his departure to the UK.
“So, between that time and now, it became a money law. The funds have now been sourced and it has been received from the CBN to the Budget Office where we expect it to be processed in one week as undertaken by the government side.”
Ngige added that the meeting agreed that by Friday, August 27, residents in institutions would have started getting their money, with each receiving about N542, 000.
He noted that the issue of consequential adjustment on national minimum wage cuts across the health and educational sectors, which were both affected by the projection of N160 billion done in 2019, but which fell short of the people that were to benefit from it.
“The meeting agreed that we need to let this matter be. Therefore, the Budget Office of the Federation should start from the 2021 service vote to start paying. And if we have any leftovers, we roll it into 2022.
“Coming to hazard allowance, everybody agreed that the discussion is still ongoing and, therefore, government wants to finish it up. We agreed with NMA’s position to us that they don’t want to discuss holistically anymore as an association and that they have their own peculiarities that are not same with other health workers.
“We are going to do two meetings, one for NMA and affiliates and one for JOHESU. But we are taking the meetings concurrently, so we don’t run into troubled waters. We are starting next weeks,’’ he said.
Ngige said the meeting equally noted that the non-payment of skipping allowance cuts across the entire health sector and agreed that it was going to be handled holistically, while awaiting the court judgment on the matter.
He said the NMA had been directed to submit a written position on the controversial circular withdrawing NYSC doctors and house officers from the scheme of service to point out the anomaly in the circular for onward transmission to Head of Service of the Federation, who will look at the inputs given by NMA to the circular and process it to either the Council of Establishment or handle it administratively.
“We also agreed on the migration of doctors on Government Financial Management Information System, GFMIS, from some university teaching hospitals, like University College Hospital Ibadan, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital and University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital which have recruited doctors on GFMIS and were unable to pay them when GFMIS was tampered with.
“We can resume when we verify those people. They can be there until the recruitment is perfected in order to migrate them to Integrated Personnel and Payroll System, IPPIS,. In this wise, the Head of Service has granted waiver and revalidation of old waiver for University of Port Harcourt and waivers for University College Ibadan and Calabar but this is not without reprimand for CMDs who have flouted government’s regulations by recruiting people into the service without fulfilling the requirements of circular on this.
“We also have issue of hazard allowances for doctors in government hospitals that did not benefit from that 2020 payment. The Federal Ministry of Health has compiled a list and we said the list should be forwarded back again to the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“For doctors in university clinics and the rest of them, we said they should route their own through the Federal Ministry of Education, their parent Ministry and employer.
“On the controversial issue of NSIWC circular, removing doctors in academia from Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS, and also doctors who are doubling as honorary consultants/lecturers from CONMESS to Congress of University Academics, CONUAS, we have even before their request treated one leg of it by obeying the court order already got by them and in the spirit of dialogue, we said further discussions should continue with National salaries, Income and Wages Commission, NSIWC.
“NMA has undertaken that they should tell the two members and their association to do an out of court settlement by withdrawing the matter from the industrial court until we finish the negotiation. We gave a time for negotiation.
“We have empanelled a committee with NMA, including NSIWC, Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Labour and others in the team. The first inaugural meeting is Tuesday, August 31st, we are hopeful that this meeting will give us suggestion on how to resolve the matter.
“On the issues relating to states, there is no way the Federal Government will start pulling the states on the issue of domestication of Medical Residency Training Programme by their various Houses of Assembly and government and issue of Medical Training Residency Fund.
‘’We also have the issue of non-payment of COVID-19 allowances by some state governments and consequential minimum wage adjustments.
“We have before now made contact with the Governors Forum on these matters and the onus is now on us as the Ministry of Labour to talk to the Governors Forum and impress on them on the need for this to be done.
“The Medical Residency Training and accompanying Fund is already in the Act which the Federal Government has signed. We will impress it on them as part of strengthening the health system so that we are not starved of specialist doctors. There is an urgent need for them to adopt that.
“This will also help us to stem the issue of brain drain. The Federal Government cannot employ everybody. We want state governments to pay more attention to secondary and tertiary health,’’ Ngige said.