The National Association of Resident Doctors in Lagos State has criticised the Lagos State Government for its hastiness in the implementation of a Federal Government directive to stop the enrolment of interns, house officers and National Youth Service Corps members on the National Health Insurance Scheme, among others.
The association, in a communiqué on Saturday, following a six-day meeting of its National Executive Council that ended on Saturday, declared an indefinite nationwide strike beginning on Monday (tomorrow).
The Lagos State Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, in a circular (Ref. No. CIR/HOS/’21/Col.1/052) on July 12, 2021, titled ‘Internship Programme in the Civil/Public Service,’ stated that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had authorised the removal of medical doctors on internship, housemanship and NYSC programmes in the state.
The document, a copy of which was made available to Sunday PUNCH, said, “As part of the resolutions reached at the 42nd National Council on Establishments Meeting, which was held in Lagos on Monday, 30th November – Friday, 4th December, 2020, the current status of the Internship Programmes/Housemanship/NYSC Doctors in the Public Service was reviewed and removed from the Schemes of Service as posts attracting Grade Levels in the Salary Structure as the programmes form part of the training in their respective professions.
“Accordingly, Mr Governor, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, has approved the removal of Grade Level for Internship Programmes/Housemanship/NYSC doctors in the State Public Service.
“Consequently, Accounting Officers are enjoined to note the contents of this circular and give it the deserved service-wide publicity.”
The circular was addressed to 30 categories of state officials, including the Deputy Governor, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Chief Judge, Secretary to the State Government, Chief of Staff, commissioners/special advisers.
The communiqué of the NARD NEC meeting made available to Sunday PUNCH by its National President, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, read in part, “The NEC noted with grievous concerns the circular from the Head of Service of the Federation removing House Officers from the scheme of service and the consequent implementation by the Lagos State Government. They also observed that some house officers are still being owed one to two months salaries.
“After critical appraisal of the performance of both federal and state governments on all the issues affecting the welfare of our members as observed above and the insincerity of government in implementing the memorandum of action after 113 days, the NEC unanimously resolved by vote to resume the total and indefinite strike action from 0800hrs Monday, 2nd August, 2021.”
The NARD President in Lagos, Dr Hassan Oluwafemi, in an interview with our correspondent, accused the state government of rushing to implement the directive to remove the lower level medical doctors from schemes of service, in spite of it being put on hold by the Federal Government.
Oluwafemi said, “The Federal Government has not implemented it yet because at the last meeting of the NMA with the Head of Service of the Federation, it was pointed out that in that memo, we have five to 10 per cent (enrolled on the National Health insurance Scheme) and it is going to destabilise the health sector.
“I guess that was the reason the Federal Government had to put it on hold. But surprisingly, Lagos State quickly jumped to the implementation of that and we feel it is not acceptable. This is something that even the Federal Government has not implemented. Why is it the one that will have a negative effect on doctors that it will be the first to implement?
“Commencing on Monday, the NARD is embarking on an indefinite strike. One of the issues that led to the strike is the house officers and NYSC doctors being removed from the schemes of service by the memo issued by the Federal Government. Other governors have not implemented it, but Lagos State rushed to implement it. If it succeeds in Lagos, definitely some other states will follow suit.”
The NARD president said one of the association’s demands was the withdrawal of the circular by the Lagos State Government.
“It is even more than the issue of salaries. It is all about protecting the interests of the vulnerable members of our profession. We cannot just watch as that happens. It is like destroying the history of the medical profession. It is one of the issues that were discussed, on which the (strike) decision was based,” Oluwafemi said.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Gboyega Akosile, could not be reached for comments on Saturday evening as calls to his number went unanswered.
However, a top government official in the state government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that due consultations needed to be made with the relevant officials before a position could be given.
“I will need to get in touch with people who are concerned, perhaps in the Ministry of Establishments and Training as well as the Ministry of Health, to be able to comment,” the government source said.
FG shifts ASUU meeting as doctors begin strike Monday
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has shifted a meeting with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities earlier slated for last Friday.
The meeting was said to have been postponed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, and will now hold on Monday, Sunday PUNCH learnt.
In another development, the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria is commencing an indefinite strike on Monday over the alleged failure of the Federal Government to implement the agreements it entered with the union 113 days after it suspended the previous strike.
On ASUU, the Federal Government and ASUU have in the past few months been engaged in a disagreement over the adoption of the government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System or the ASUU-developed University Transparency and Accountability Solution in the payment of salaries of university lecturers.
The Ministry of Education spokesperson, Ben Gong, had challenged the union to be more specific in its allegations that the government had violated agreements it reached with the union.
He said UTAS proposed by ASUU could not deduct tax.
However, ASUU President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, in an earlier interview with The PUNCH, stated that the union was giving the Federal Government an ultimatum to attend to its grievances.
To forestall a looming industrial action, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Ngige, had arranged a meeting with ASUU executive members on Friday.
But Osodeke on Saturday told one of our correspondents that the meeting was postponed and would now hold Monday.
He said, “We were already getting ready to meet the Minister of Labour when we got notice that the meeting had been postponed.
“However, we will be meeting with the minister on Monday unfailingly and we hope to iron things out.”
Meanwhile, resident doctors under the umbrella of NARD have said they will commence indefinite strike action on Monday.
The NARD National President announced this on Saturday in Umuahia, Abia State capital, at the end of the association’s NEC meeting.
Uyilawa said the poor working environment in public hospitals, irregular payment of doctors’ salaries and meagre hazard allowance of N5,000, were some of the issues under contention between the association and the government.
He said in the Memorandum of Action with the Federal Government, it was agreed that NARD members should enrol in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System to prevent any shortfall in members’ salaries.
He, however, said the agreement did not go as planned as a result of an embargo from the office of the Head of Service of the federation.
He lamented that only one out of 19 families of doctors who lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic had received benefits despite assurances by the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Ngige.
He said, “We ask Nigerians, when will our government become responsible enough to solve the challenges facing the health sector?
“Even with all these problems, only four per cent of the total budget is allocated to the health sector, while 25-50 per cent goes into the payment of those in power. That shows that the priority lies more in the interest of those in power than Nigerian citizens.
40 UNIJOS lecturers decry over 12 months’ salary arrears
Meanwhile, over 40 lecturers at the University of Jos have been lamenting the non-payment of over 12 months’ salary arrears due to the implementation of the IPPIS.
Sources in the institution said the 40 lecturers could not receive salaries because their names had been omitted from salary payment, even when they continued to get their salaries debited without refund.
When contacted, the chairman of ASUU in UNIJOS, Dr Lazarus Maigoro, confirmed that IPPIS had brought chaos to the universities.