By Victor Ahiuma- Young
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, says the Federal Government has substantially met the demands of the National Association of Resident Doctors(NARD) and faulted the rejection of the Memorandum of Action signed Wednesday March 31, 2021 by the President of NARD, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi.
The Minister, who spoke to reporters, yesterday, explained that some of the demands by NARD were made in error as some of the issues were already conciliated and implemented hundred percent. He, however, stated the outstanding issues, which came up at the last conciliation, were timelined along a month life span of implementation, revealing that “ they are still work in progress .”
“NARD made some of the demands in ignorance. They didn’t have the full picture . May be they wished for a strike or their president pushed them into strike so that his name will go into the annals of NARD as one of the presidents that have taken them on strike. That’s wrong,”he stated.
Ngige faulted the unilateral repudiation of the Memorandum of Action by NARD’s President, describing it as unknown in labour negotiation.
“He didn’t participate in most of the discussions last Wednesday because he fell ill not quite long after the meeting started and had to excuse himself . He handed over to his deputy, the Secretary General and other officers of the association, who fully participated . We spent seven hours and by the time we put our signatures to the papers , it was eight hours.
“ Disowning the MOA duly negotiated is unknown to labour . The two parties to the negotiation signed the MOA. Four officers from government and three from NARD signed the document and the President who was not at the meeting but fully represented by deputies went to NARD’s NEC and disowned the paper because they were signed by his deputy and secretary general . There is what is called transmission of power . He as the President fell sick and his deputies continued with the meeting . That’s allowed.”
Even at that, the Minister averred that ab initio, it was wrong for NARD to impose a fait accompli on the Federal Government while negotiation was ongoing.
“ When a trade dispute has been apprehended , no party imposes on the other, a fait accompli. We signed a memorandum that says NARD will go back to its members to educate them on what has been agreed, the timelines placed on them, with a view not to disturb the industrial milieu in the health sector. And we agreed to reconvene after four weeks,” Ngige said.
According to him, the reason was to allow enough time to implement the issues in the timeline, some of which would take three weeks, before reconvening . He further expressed disappointment that NARD made a detour and mobilized members into action on the Eastertide, when Christians are observing the holiest week in their universal calendar.
The minister dismissed as untrue, allegation that doctors in the public health institutions across the country, were not insured and said the Federal Government spent 13.3 billion naira in 2020, on Group Life Insurance not just for doctors and health workers alone but also for all workers in the federal civil and public service.
“ The Federal Government of Nigeria in March last year, spent N13.3 billion on Group life Insurance for all workers comprising all federal civil servants as well as public servants in some parastatals that cannot afford Group Life Insurance for their staff members,” Ngige said.
According to him, the reason for the composite exercise was to stop a situation where Ministries and agencies of government worked in silos in payment of death benefits to workers and with lapses in some cases.
“ This N13.3b was paid to thirteen insurance companies and brokerage firms to administer . And this is not the first time that NARD and teaching hospitals have been told to send in names and make claims for members who have lost their lives.
“It is an insurance that runs for one year and it is still on till March that just ended and even at that, the new payment is now being processed , so that it becomes a continuous thing.