From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
To immediately end the indefinite strike of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), the Federal Government says it will commence the implementation of its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) on Monday.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr Chris Ngige, made the disclosure on Saturday at the continuation of an all-stakeholder meeting he summoned at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, aimed at resolving the doctors strike. The meeting had earlier started at about 2 pm on Friday and adjourned in the early hours of Saturday before reconvening in the afternoon.
Ngige, who addressed journalists before the meeting went into a closed-door session said they had reached agreements the previous night on all the 12 disputed issues, adding that implementation would start from the next working day (Monday).
On the issue of non-payment of some house officers, the minister said NARD is expected to submit the list of the affected 114 officers for further verification and when confirmed that they are genuine, and their IPPIS particulars and BVN are 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 outstanding to be paid in 2020.
‘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 the 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 for the meeting and medical check-up.
‘So, between that time and now, it became a money law. The funds have now been sourced and it has gotten 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 next Friday, August 27, residents in institutions would have started getting their money, with each receiving about N542,000.
He noted 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 this.
‘The meeting agreed that we need to let this matter. 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 the government wants to finish it up. We agreed with the NMA position that they don’t want to discuss holistically anymore as an association and that they have their own peculiarities that are not the 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 that we don’t run into troubled quarters. We are starting next week,’ he said.
Ngige said the meeting equally noted that the non-payment of skipping allowance cuts across the entire health sector and therefore agreed that it was going to be handled holistically while awaiting the court judgment on the matter.
He said the NMA has been directed to submit a written position on the controversial withdrawing NYSC doctors and house officers from the scheme of service to point out the anomaly in the circular, for onward transmission to the 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, if the issues are not such of fundamental nature to further clarify it, adding that a two-month timeline has been set for this.
‘We also agreed on the migration of doctors on 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 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 regulations by recruiting people into the service without fulfilling the requirements of circular on this.”
‘We also have an 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 that 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 CONMESS and also doctors who are doubling as honorary consultants/lecturers from CONMESS to CONUAS, we have even before their request treated one leg of it by obeying the court order already gotten by them and in the spirit of dialogue, we said further discussions should continue with 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 time for negotiation.
‘We have empanelled a committee with NMA leading 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 suggestions 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.’