FG warns resident doctors against planned strike

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The Federal Government has warned members of the National
Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to shelve their planned five-day warning


Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, gave
the warning on Tuesday in Abuja, shortly after receiving a letter of
notification from the NARD executive on the planned strike.


Ngige said this in a statement signed by Mr Olajide
Oshundun, Director, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, describing the
planned strike as illegal.


The impending industrial action is billed to begin by
midnight of May 16.


Ngige, who was reacting to the letter delivered to his
office at about 5pm same day, said he contacted the Minister of Health, who
informed him that a meeting had been scheduled with the resident doctors on


He therefore advised the doctors to avail themselves of the
opportunity for social dialogue with their employer, rather than embark on a
warning strike, which is unknown to the law.


According to him, “I will advise them to attend the meeting
with the Minister of Health tomorrow. I will also advise them very strongly not
to go on a five-day warning strike.


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“There is nothing like a warning strike. A strike is a
strike. If they want to take that risk, the options are there. It is their
decision. They have the right to strike. You cannot deny them that right.


“But their employer has another right under Section 43 of
the Trade Dispute Act, to withhold their pay for those five days. So, if the
NARD has strike funds to pay their members for those five days, no problem.


“The Health Minister will instruct the teaching hospitals to
employ adhoc people for those five days and they will use the money of the
people who went on strike to pay the adhoc doctors.


“That is the ILO principles at decent work, especially for
those rendering essential services. Lives should be protected. One of my sons
is a resident doctor, I will advise him to go to work and sign the attendance


He added that the people seen at work were the ones to
receive their pay.


“If you don’t work, there will be no pay,” he vowed.


On the five demands of the doctors, Ngige said the Federal
Government lacked the powers to compel the states to domesticate the Medical
Residency Training Fund (MRTF).

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He added that health is in the residual list, where both the
federal and state governments have the powers to legislate.


The minister also stated that the job of the Federal
Government was to make policy and where the states disagree, they were at
liberty to make their own policy.


He noted that the Federal Government cannot bully the states
into domesticating the MRTF if they do not want to.


Regarding the issue of immediate payment of the MRTF to
their members, he said it was appropriated in the 2023 budget, but has not been
released, as the 2022 budget was still running, adding that those in 2022 have
all been paid.


Ngige denied the claim by NARD that the Federal Government
did not pay minimum wage consequential adjustment arrears to their members.


He added that all workers in the Education and Health
Sectors, and even the defense agencies, benefited from the adjustment.


He noted that the doctors cannot declare nationwide strike
because some states were owing their members, pointing out that the federal
government cannot also dabble into the issue, being a state matter.

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Ngige also said the Federal Government, as the Executive arm
of government, cannot intervene in the bill at the National Assembly to bond
doctors for five years, as it is a private member’s bill.


According to him, any intervention by the executive on the
matter impinges on the autonomy and independence of the legislative arm of


Ngige noted that the bill had passed through first and
second reading, adding that he was sure it would be shut down at the public
hearing, since the law prohibits forced labour.


He advised the doctors not to talk about a 200 per cent pay
rise, as it was not feasible.


“Besides all the government has done for doctors and other
workers in the health sector, such as upward review of hazard allowances, the
Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) was already negotiating with the Federal
Ministry of Health, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission and the
Presidential Committee on Salaries on pay rise for doctors.


“It is incongruous for student doctors to embark on strike
when consultants training them were already negotiating with the Federal
Government,” he said.


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