FG, Doctors sign MoU; strike may be called off within 48 hours

The Nation reports that Nigerian doctors under the aegis of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) are likely to call off their strike within the next 48 hours.This is the result of the reconciliation meeting the association had with the Federal Government, represented by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige on Friday. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the government and the NARD after the meeting.Earlier, the doctors’ association also held a meeting with the National Assembly Joint Health Committee – both the Senate and House of Representatives Committee Chair on Health, and other relevant stakeholders in attendance.The NARD, however, stressed that MoU would be taken back to the National Executive Council (NEC) of the NARD, which will analyze the content of the MoU, and decide to accept what the government is offering and suspend the strike or extend the ultimatum because there are timelines for many of the things in the MoU.It further stressed that should the NEC reject what the government is offering in the signed MoU, it may be forced to embark on an indefinite strike.Recall that on April 29, 2023, the association issued a two-week ultimatum to the Federal Government to meet its demands. The 14-day ultimatum ended on May 13, 2023.However, on Wednesday, May 17, the NARD began its five-day warning strike over unmet demands. The warning strike is expected to end on Monday, May 22, at 8 am.Chief among the association’s demands are: Among them are: 200 per cent review of their Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS), payment of the 2023 Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF), issuance of a circular by the House of Representatives jettisoning the bill by Hon. Ganiyu Johnson, which seeks to stop young doctors from leaving the country without a five-year service period.Other demands are: issuance of a circular by the Federal Ministry of Health for replacement of doctors and nurses that have left the system with new ones, and the payment of salary arrears, improvement in hazard allowance by state governments, among others.In a chat with The Nation, the President of the NARD, Dr. Emeka Orji, said: “We went to the meeting called by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, where we took the demands that NARD made one after the other. Explanations were offered to some of the issues, while for others, we got responses which we intend to pass across to our members for final ratification.“We signed an MoU with the government. I can confirm that many of the things we raised there were discussed, and timelines given for the implementation, with dates for some of the points we raised.“We will take the MoU back to our members to analyze, and then accept what the government has offered or reject it. This will happen in the next 48 hours. The National Executive Council (NEC) of the NARD will review the content of the MoU with a view of suspending the strike.”“Incidentally, this is a five-day warning strike, but why this is important is because our NEC has said that if at the end of the five days, we don’t get any favourable response, we will decide on the next action. The next action can be an indefinite strike or we accept what the government has offered.“We are going to be open and as sincere as possible to our members. We are not going to hold back any information so that they will be able to make an informed decision.”