By Amos Aar
THE presidents of two branches of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) in Benue State have said that the medical doctors in the state did not suspend their two months strike as a result of federal government’s threat of no-work, no-pay.
NARD President, Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi, Dr David Alapa, and his counterpart at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH), Makurdi, Dr Anenga Usha, told National Record in an interview that their decision to suspend the strike was in consideration of the plight of Nigerians. They both also agreed that the government had also shifted grounds.
“We did not resume work because of the threat. As you are aware, we were on strike for two months and five days.
“Strikes are called so that we can negotiate and come out of it. We had series of meetings with the government and other stakeholders. We went up to the highest we could go. We talked to the president and the government agreed that if we call of the strike, they would come back to the negotiating table.
“We are still negotiating. Some of the demands we made before we went on strike have been met and some are yet to be met.
“We did not call off the strike, we suspended it for six weeks to see what the government would do and we believe that something will be done. The no-work, no-pay is part of the negotiation we are still doing, we are not paid yet.
“We don’t take delight in strike, strike is the last option. The public really stood by us and we appreciate that,” Dr Alapa said.
On his part, Dr Usha, the BSUTH NARD President, who is also the Assistant National Secretary of NARD, said: “We embarked on our strike on the 2nd August , that’s about two months ago, and since we went on strike, the threat was there. So, if it were because of the threat, we would have returned to work immediately. But we resisted because we believe in our conviction about the issues that we were presenting before the government.
“A lot happened but we later looked at the progress that the government had made in implementing those agreements that we had with them. We saw that the government had made some progress. For instance, those that were owed monies, the government started paying it. We had doctors that were owed monies on a platform that was called Government Financing Information Management System (GIFMIS), they needed to be moved to a platform called IPPIS to get their arrears paid and government started doing that by capturing 3 or 4 major hospitals.
“There is a circular that was released that removes House Officers and NYSC doctors from the Scheme of Service, there was a counter secular that invalidated that one and then a council for establishment is meeting in November to reverse that circular.
“We had an issue of bench fee in time past. As a resident doctor, when you are going to another institution for a training, you need to pay money. But the issue of bench fee has been abolished during this period. We had one hundred and fourteen (114) House Officers that had salary arrears and had their monies deducted but the issue of House Officers in this country has been settled by the very responsible Registrar, Dr TB Sanusi.
“So, these are the issues that we have achieved and we thought that the other issues that were left were things that we could work on, considering that our services are very essential. We couldn’t hold on to these issues to say that we would not resume work.
“We also considered the plight of Nigerians, like I told you. Our services are essential to them, we considered pleas from well-meaning Nigerians from the highest echelons of power like the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, General Muhammadu Buhari, the Sultan of Sokoto and Speaker House of the Representatives; there were a lot of appeals.
“So, we summed up all of these things on the 3rd of October and decided that we would suspend the strike for a period of six weeks (6) after which we will come back again and look at the situation and see how far we have gone.
“We don’t like striking, and government, during this period, started showing some willingness to negotiate with us. So we suspended the strike also as a form of goodwill because we saw that the government was showing some willingness and we expect them to continue in this light so as to avoid such problems in going forward.”
Asked whether the government had paid or had agreed to pay NARD members for the two months they embarked on strike despite the no-work, no-pay rule, Dr Anenga said: “the government took us to court and part of what we agreed upon was that when we call off the strike, government would withdraw the court case and then we can talk about every other thing and every other thing is being talked about.”