By Uche Amunike
The National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, has resolved, during their emergency National Executive Council meeting held in Abuja Sunday, to suspend their two-month-old industrial action, with plans to go back to work by 8am, Wednesday.
The doctors had an extensive debate during the meeting over how to go about their dispute with the government, which resulted in the members casting a vote.
They extensively discussed the issue of sustaining the strike and when it was put to vote, 56 of the NEC members voted in favour of suspending the strike, while 28 supported its continuation. Five others were absent.
Recall that the doctors’ strike action almost crippled the country’s health sector in the past two months it lasted.
The resident doctors embarked on the two-month strike to demand the implementation of the Memorandum of Agreement, (MoA), which they reached with the Federal government and also protest the alleged non-payment of arrears of salaries and allowances to some of their members.
Part of their demand was also, the immediate release of their Residency Training Fund as well as the placement of their members in the appropriate salary structure.
They had series of negotiations with the Federal government and yet it was difficult reaching a compromise, which made the Federal government take the matter to the National Industrial Court for resolution.
NARD was under pressure from different quarters to end the prolonged strike action which already had Nigerians being on the receiving end. Their parent body, the Nigerian Medical Association was among those that mounted pressure on them to suspend their strike action.
When NMA paid a courtesy visit to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige with the new National executive of NARD, he did say that the continuation of the strike was no longer necessary and made a plea to them to discontinue the action.
His words: ‘We cannot pretend that all is well. We had to look at some of the things that have unraveled since 2nd August. As you know, I’m a man of peace and my leadership is for peace and we really want to resolve this once and for all, so we can move on. Nigerians are suffering and we can’t allow it to continue’, he said’.
NARD has however said that they decided to suspend the strike, based on the strength of progress made in implementing the Memorandum of Understanding, (MoU), reached with the Federal government.
They however added that the association was given another 6 weeks window for the government to implement the decisions reached in the MoU, failing which it will summon another emergency National Executive Council meeting to decide on what to do.
At the press conference held at NARD’s headquarters in Abuja on Monday, the President, Dr Dare Godiya Ishaya said the NEC meeting assessed the level of implementation of the MoU reached with the government and was impressed with the progress.
He said that the intervention of stakeholders from both parties played a part in resolving the issues involved and calling off the strike.