The Federal Government has reached out to the National Association of Resident Doctors to forestall a looming strike by the association, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
A meeting to iron out the contentious issues has, therefore, been scheduled for Tuesday, the President of NARD, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, told one of our correspondents on Friday.
In another development, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), has shelved his medical trip to the United Kingdom as earlier scheduled for Friday.
His Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, revealed this in a statement titled, ‘President Buhari postpones London trip.’
The statement read, “The medical follow-up visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United Kingdom earlier scheduled for today, Friday, June 25, 2021, has been postponed.”
“A new date will be announced in due course,” the statement added.
Adesina had initially in a statement on Thursday announced that Buhari would on Friday proceed to London for “a scheduled medical follow-up.”
The statement disclosed that the President would return to the country during the second week of July 2021, barely four months after he travelled to London for medical checkup and returned two weeks later.
Initially, when Adesina announced on Thursday that the President would travel to London for medical “follow-up” checkup, NARD also issued a fresh four-week ultimatum to the federal and state governments to address its demands, including the payment of hazard allowances.
The association listed some other terms and conditions for the federal and state governments to meet or else it would embark on strike.
However, NARD President Okhuaihesuyi on Friday told Saturday PUNCH that the Federal Government had reached out to the association and proposed a meeting date.
He said, “We have received a letter from the Federal Government and a meeting has been arranged with the Ministry of Health. That will be next Tuesday, June 29.
“We will be meeting them and I will definitely give a follow-up on the outcome of our meeting.”
NARD had on April 1 embarked on a two-week strike – a day after the President embarked on a medical trip to London for a routine medical check-up.
Buhari returned two weeks later
If he had stayed in London for more than three weeks during the trip, it would have been mandatory for him to hand over to the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, as demanded by the constitution.
Since assuming office in 2015, the President had travelled multiple times to London for medical checkup, contrary to his campaign promise to stop medical tourism during his regime.
When he travelled for several months between 2016 and 2018, he transmitted power to Osinbajo. However, in the last two years, he has not done so for unexplained reasons.
Protesters storm Nigeria House in London
Meanwhile, while it was unclear why Buhari’s trip to the UK was postponed, it came on the same day a peaceful demonstration was held by some Nigerians in the UK against the alleged bad treatment and killing of Igbo in Nigeria, according to a British Broadcasting Corporation report.
A video shared by BBC Pidgin on Facebook showed scores of protesters at the Nigeria House in London, UK, chanting and singing various protest songs.
The protesters trekked from Trafalgar Square to the House of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to protest insecurity in the South-East.
The protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as ‘Nigerian President threatened another genocide. When Twitter objected, it was banned in Nigeria’, and ‘Britain and America can force Buhari to stop the killing of Biafrans in Nigeria.’
Other inscriptions read, ‘Igbo Lives Matter,’ ‘Nigerian Government, Stop the Killing of People in the South-East,’ among others.
One of the protesters told BBC Pidgin that they were demanding that the alleged killing of people in the South-East should stop.
The protester said, “We are protesting against the killing of people in Southeastern Nigeria. The police are killing people; the military are killing people; even the so-called unknown gunmen are killing people. Police stations, prisons, and other government facilities are getting attacked and razed.
“Initially, the Inspector General of Police (Usman Baba) said the attacks were done by people that looked like members of the Indigenous People of Biafra. He said the police would investigate. For two weeks now, he has not said anything. The Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, also said the same thing the IGP said.
“We want them to bring the footage. Let them play it. Let’s see the people they are referring to as ‘Aningo.’ They are killing people. They say ‘search and flush.’ Is life now water that you can flush?”
Another protester said, “We have come out because they are killing our youths. They are destroying our farms. We want this to stop and stop now. Igbo lives matter. Nigeria belongs to all of us. We want peace in Nigeria.
“We want the Igbo to be free in Nigeria. We want all the policemen and soldiers torturing our people in the South-East to withdraw.
“We are calling for a national conference to discuss the restructuring of Nigeria. If it is not possible, let us go in peace. We are calling on the European Union, the United Nations, African Union and the rest. They need to intervene in Nigeria. All is not well with Nigeria.”
PDP, activists knock PMB, say he’s unfit to rule
Notwithstanding the postponement of his London medical trip on Friday, the Peoples Democratic Party and some activists have knocked the President for medical tourism.
The PDP challenged Buhari to come clean on the real reason his scheduled medical trip to London was cancelled at the last minute.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, asked Buhari to seize the opportunity he had to fix Nigerian hospitals.
The statement read in part, “Our party urges President Buhari to use this period to reflect on the suffering of the millions of Nigerians who do not have access to foreign medical treatment but are dying on a daily basis because of his failure to pay attention to our healthcare system, which has become decrepit under his watch.
“Nigerians are also dismayed that Mr President has consistently failed to honour his pre-2015 campaign promise not to embark on medical tourism if elected President.
“President Buhari, therefore, ought to be aware that the only condition in which history will be kind to him, as he has always wished, is if he honours his own words as well as use this period to resolve the impasse between the Nigerian Medical Association and his administration, fix our hospitals and confront other challenges facing the health sector in our country.”
Also, in an interview, activist and Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, said the President cancelling his trip did not change the fact that he was unfit to rule the country.
Sowore said, “It does not matter if he cancelled the trip or not. Our position remains that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), is unfit to preside over Nigeria and our #BuhariMustGo continues unabated.
“He was the person who stated at the Chatham House (London) that it was wrong to engage in medical tourism.”
However, in a separate interview, the Convener, Centre for Liberty, Dare Ariyo-Atoye, linked the postponement of Buhari’s trip to the protest in London.
Ariyo-Atoye said, “The President knew that a protest would definitely be waiting for him in London. He knew the UK government wouldn’t be able to shield him as the trip wasn’t a diplomatic one but a medical one.
“After what happened the last time, he probably has been trying to contact the UK police for protection but it was refused.
“The President is simply unfit to rule this country and I hope this will open the eyes of Nigerians; we will be prepared in the next election.
“The government banned Twitter. They said we should develop homemade apps, so why should the President even travel to the UK? What happened to the hospitals in Nigeria?
“The health sector is in shambles, but what has been done? Well, it is better that the President should know that whether he postpones it or not, there will still be agitations.”
Also, a former aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Reno Omokri, in a message posted on Facebook, claimed that the President postponed the trip because of fear of protest.
Omokri wrote, “General Buhari did not postpone his London trip for ‘unknown reasons’ as the papers are claiming.
“He postponed it because we promised him the mother of all #HarassBuhariOutOfLondon. He knows our capacity. He knows how we put him under house arrest in London and chased him back to Nigeria with his tail in his leg. Come to London. Don’t postpone. We are waiting for you!
“You called the police for me in London, it did not work. You went to Paris, we were there. As I told you before, the only place we would not chase you away from is Saudi Arabia, because we respect the Islamic faith.
“Other than that, if you go to Paris, God willing, we will pull off #HarassBuhariOutOfParis. If you go to Spain, God willing, we will do #HarassBuhariOutOfSpain. If you go to Germany, God willing, we will do #HarassBuhariOutOfGermany.
“If you had $1.9bn to build a railway for your first cousins in Niger Republic with Nigeria’s money, then you can fix our health sector for the common man!”
Meanwhile, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ferdinand Nwonye, said on Friday he could not confirm that the President’s trip was shelved on account of the protest at the Nigeria House.
“I don’t know whether the President’s trip was postponed due to the protest. I will call London tomorrow (Saturday) to confirm,” Nwonye said.