Health: Looming Strike By NARD Members As Buhari’s Administration Winds Down

By Lateef Adegbite

When Femi Adesina, the Special Assistant to the President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, appeared on Channels Television recently and stated  that the eight months sickness of the President,   between January and March, 202017 and    between April 2019 and August , 2019,    was a major  setback to the Administration, nobody took him serious.

This is because Yemi Osibajo, the Vice President, had filled the vacuum that was said to have been created by the Katsia born Nigerian President as the Nigerian Resident Doctors and Dentist Association, NARD, Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU and other government approved Associations never contemplated of paralyzing the nation’s health and educational sectors.

  Many had expected the Nigerian President to make the difference now that he came back to office ‘’whole, sound and better than he went to the UK, for treatment in 2017 and 2029, respectively’’. However, between 2020 and now, that the Nigerian President have fully returned to office to do what he was elected to do, the country, appears to have  moved from one crisis to the other as one union or the other has embarked on nationwide strike due to  unresolved issues.

They had had expected him to address the challenges facing the various sectors of the economy to forestall the strikes but the government has adopted a’’ fire brigade approach to address the problems’’, thus giving room to the Associations to still threaten to go on strike.

Already,  the Leadership of NARD,  has threatened to mobilise their members  on a nationwide strike over  failure by the government  ‘’to address their demands which include  the irregularities  in the new government circular  on an upward review  of the Medical residency  Training Fund, non-payment of outstanding arrears  of the new  hazard allowance, as well as  the non-payment of the consequential  adjustment  of the minimum wage  to some of its members’’.

Ngige: Minister Of Labour And Employment And Major Government Negotiator With Associations

Other unresolved issues include ‘’the non-domestication of the Medical Residency Training Act, MARTA, in most states of across the Federation’’.   The  NARD officials were said to  have made it clear to Nigerians , that the Buhari’s Administration is pushing them to the wall to down tool,  over the outstanding  payment  of the skipping arrears  of 2014 and 2015 and 2016, and delay in the upward review  of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, COMESS, despite repeated  promises by Chris Ngige , a former governor of Anambra state and minister of Labour and Employment and Osagie Ehanire, minister of Health.

They were said to have also expressed their anger   over the downgrading of ‘’the membership Certificate of the West African Postgraduate Colleges by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDN’’, without a word from the Nigerian President.

Perhaps, what may have broken the camel’s back was what NARD, consider as the obnoxious Bill being sponsored in by the Femi Gbajabiamila led House of Representatives mmber , Ganiyu Johnson,  which was said to have passed second reading  for graduates in the Medical and dental fields’’to render services within Nigeria for five years before being granted full operating licenses’’  which the Association   Leadership did not find funny, 

The  NARD  officials may have seen Bill as an opportunity by the Nigerian government  ‘’ to enslave Nigerian –trained Medical Doctors  for  five years  post –graduation’’  before they can  be issued  full practicing Licenses  and allowed to travel  abroad  if they wished to do so.

The House Representatives Lawmakers may have been encouraged to debate on the Bill because of what happened within the country at the peak of the Asian country of China emerged coronavirus, popular, COVID 19, in which many Nigerian trained Medical and Dentist personnel had travelled to the North American country of the United States, US, United Kigdom, UK , Europe and the Middle East, particular, United Arab Emirate, UAE and Saudi Arabia to practice their  trade.

 In sponsoring the Bill,  Johnson, had told those that cares to listen that what he has in mind  ‘’to mandate  any Nigerian trained Medical and Dental Practitioners  to practice in Nigeria  for a mnimum of five years  before  being granted  full License by the nation’s Medical and Dental Council as a way to strengthen the nation’s health sector.

 He noted that the current emigration of Nigerian trained Medical and Dental Practitioners abroad is unacceptable and would no longer be tolerated. According to him,  Nigeria currently has  only  24,000 licensed Medical Doctors available, less than  10% of  the  number  needed  to meet the World Health Organisation,WHO,  recommendation for countries to meet the need of their health sector.

The Lawmaker had said that that the Nigerian Medical and Dentist Practitioners have no reason to travel abroad to practice their trade because their education was highly subsidized by the Nigerian government. Hear him, the cost of  studying Medicine  in public institutions  in Nigeria  ranges from N40,000.00 to N50,000.00, noting that  the tuition  fee  for  Medicine alone,  in the UK alone  is between  35,750 pound sterling  and 66,500 pound sterling  per annum  and the duration of the Course is four years, meaning that the government subside their training programme.

He  disclosed  that  in the US,  the average cost  of studying Medicine  ranges between  $82,000 and $104,000, aside from miscellaneous  expenses which include  feeding,  accommodation  and so on  while in Canada , a Medical student requires  between  52,0000 CAD to 179 CAD to per annum  to graduate from the Course. 

Rowland: NARD President

DUche Rowland Ojinmah, President, NARD, who could not hide is feelings had said that Nigeria,  requires a mix  of 23 Medical Doctors, nurses and Midwives per 10,000 population to be able to deliver  essential  healthcare services to them.

He lamented that because of the situation of things in the country, no fewer than 5,600 Nigerian Medical Practioners have left the country over the last seven years and are currently working in different Hospitals in the UK.

 His major worry was that in the northern part of the  country  , only one Doctor is available to treat  45,00 patients  while  in the southern part    ,the situation my look different , a but one Doctor , is only available to treat 30,00 patients, stressing that this is still not good enough for the country.

Given Buhari’s commitment to take all the necessary actions to end the incessant strikes by workers in the vital sectors of the Nigeian economy like the Health and educational sectors, he may not want NARD , to welcome Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state  and the President elect into office on May 29, 2023,  with strike.  

One of such measures that was said to have been introduced and which government Negotiators must follow was that in entering any agreements which has Financial implications, it must be done with the approval of the President. Note that all past agreements that had been signed by government Negotiators with NARD and ASUU, that had financial implications were said to have been entered without the Buhari’s approval. This may have informed why NARD and ASUU, Leaderships are still holding the government to ransom, insisting that the promiss must be fulfilled.   

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