Following a meeting between the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara and the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria, NARD, the proposed indefinite strike by the doctors scheduled to commence on Thursday June 9, 2016 has been suspended for one week to allow the House intervene in the issues between them and the Executive.
The meeting will be personally be convened and presided over by the Speaker, according to a statement issued by his spokesman, Turaki Hassan, in Abuja.
The suspension came after an intense appeal meeting between the association’s executive members and Dogara as well as chairmen of relevant House Committees in his office.
Speaking to them, Dogara asked the resident doctors to grant the House one week to meet with the Minister of Health and fashion out ways to meet their demands and address lingering grievances.
He noted that democracy was about the whole wellbeing of the citizens, and appealed further to the association to understand that the country is presently going through financial challenges.
The Speaker said, “It doesn’t matter what faith you profess, for instance, it is clearly stated in the Holy Bible that a labourer should be paid his wages even before his sweat dries. I believe that as a responsible government we know this. It is not like we don’t know but as to matters, challenges facing you, these are not things that we had discussed before, I only heard through the briefings I was given.
“If it is possible for you to open this window for us in the immediate to call on relevant persons who are in charge of this. I can sit down with the chairmen of committees, some members of the relevant committees, with your good selves and members of the ministry so they can bring these issues and we’ll understand why someone will work for four to eight months and not be paid. What is the problem? And then we will attempt to address these issues together and if that doesn’t work, we can’t stop you from venting your anger and expressing your grievances.
I appeal to you to give us till next week when I hope we will be able to invite them and we will sit down together and iron out the issues.”
“Imagine a situation where all the resident doctors in Nigeria are on strike, what will happen to the people we represent? Democracy’s first promise is life, thereafter liberty, the third promise is the pursuit of happiness, and all of them rest on each other. If you don’t have life, then you cannot begin to talk of liberty, if you don’t have liberty then you cannot begin to talk about happiness. So ultimately, all the three hang on life. When there is no life, there is nothing, democracy is useless because a dead man doesn’t have liberty.
“So for us, democracy itself is life and when you ignore sectors that provide these very essential services that support the health of our people, then we are even scouring democracy itself and its promises and so I agree with you entirely.
“It should be the responsibility of government, actually, to ensure that those who are rendering services, those who are working, providing the vents by which the nation moves, should be able to enjoy not just their salaries, but every other benefit surrounding their scheme of service.”
He lamented that the wealth of Nigeria has shrunk due to decreased crude oil income and that is affecting the ability of government to deliver on its responsibilities.
President, Dr Mohammad Askira, informed the Speaker that members of the association have not been paid their salaries and other entitlements for several months.
The meeting concluded with NARD stating that members whose salaries have been paid fully will suspend strike for one week to give room for mediation as appealed by the Speaker, while those who are still being owed salaries will continue with the strike action as planned.