Strike: This is the time Nigerians need you most, says President Buhari to doctors

NEWS DIGEST – President Muhammadu Buhari has told striking doctors and other health workers to return to their duty posts, saying embarking on industrial action when Nigerians need them the most is not the best action.

According to the president, his administration has a good track record of paying all debts owed to government workers, while giving the assurance that outstanding benefits owed to medical doctors will be cleared after verifications.

Buhari said this on Friday in Abuja while receiving members of the Nigeria Medical Association at the State House on Friday.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement, titled ‘Embarking on industrial action at this time when Nigerians need you most is not the best action to take, says President Buhari to doctors.’

Buhari said, “The lives of citizens that could be lost or damaged when doctors withdraw services, are precious enough to be worth opting for peaceful resolution of differences.

“Protecting our citizens is not to be left to the government alone, but taken as a collective responsibility, in which especially medical professionals play a critical role. Let me speak directly to the striking doctors. Embarking on industrial action at this time when Nigerians need you most is not the best action to take, no matter the grievances.

“This administration has a good track record of paying all debts owed to government workers, pensioners and contractors and we have even revisited debts left by past administrations, once due verification is done. Debts genuinely owed to health workers will be settled.

“I learnt that some of the 12 points demanded in the ongoing strike were already addressed, though the review of a new hazard allowance has not been fully negotiated because of the sharp and deep division within the ranks of the striking doctors.’’

The President said the outstanding issue of an establishment circular issued by the Head of Service, removing House officers, NYSC doctors from scheme of service, had an addendum circular from National Salaries and Wages Commission to clarify that they will continue to earn the wages attached to them on their present wage structure.

“I request that the agreement reached in the meetings of 20th and 21st August captured in the MoU which I have seen be religiously implemented,’’ he added.

Buhari explained that he had increased the budgetary allocations of the health sector and had convened a Health Sector Reform Committee, under the chairmanship of the Vice President, to identify and address weaknesses in the health system and align with global best practices that raise public confidence.

“We are also supporting initiatives to expand health insurance coverage and bring more resources to health financing. We have many more challenges ahead and much more to do, for our large population.

“In this respect, it is important to remind you that, as senior medical personnel and representatives of one of the most respected professional groups in the world, your responsibility for the health and wellbeing of Nigerians are clear.

“It does not end only with the welfare of your members, but continues with a sense of responsibility for the entire country and its socio-political health and national stability,’’ Buhari said.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the NMA had been playing a critical role in the development of the health sector, particularly in tackling pandemics, participating in policy formulation and population health.

The President of the NMA, Prof Innocent Ujah, thanked the President for the appointment of members into strategic positions in government, assent to the Medical Residency Act and immunisation coverage

Ujah said the association was concerned with the industrial action embarked upon by doctors and had been doing its best to alleviate the suffering of patients across the country while appealing for an urgent resolution.