The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have remained defiant in their ongoing strike action as they, on Saturday, issued a fresh 72-hour ultimatum to the Federal Government in their ongoing industrial dispute.

The resident doctors in their ultimatum asked the government to pay its members being owed Medical Residency Training Fund and salary arrears and also withdraw the lawsuit filed against doctors before the National Industrial Court in the interest of peace.

The demands by NARD were contained in a communiqué issued at the end of its 41st Annual General Meeting held in Bauchi State on Saturday and jointly signed by its President, Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, and Secretary-General, Jerry Isogun.

The resident doctors expressed their displeasure at the Federal Government’s continued failure to accede to their demands as well as restated their resolve to continue with the indefinite strike, which began on August 2, 2021, until their minimum demands are met.

What the NARD is saying in the communique

The communique from NARD partly reads, “Payment of the Medical Residency Training within 72 hours since the money meant for it is available and verification of the list for payment has been completed.

“Payment of the arrears of salaries of our members on GIFMIS platform within 72 hours while the migration process continues.

“Withdrawal of the case against us in court in the interest of peace and payment of our withheld August and September salaries.’’

According to Punch, the Minister of State for Health, Olorunmimbe Mamora, said that the Federal Government would re-invite NARD to the negotiation table.

Mamora said, “The court has given a ruling and they (resident doctors) still insist on not going back to work. That is not a fair situation. Though they have indicated that they want to appeal which is not wrong, but at what cost?

“Engagement is still on and we will still invite them. All we can do is to continue appealing that a strike during this period of a global pandemic and outbreaks of cholera and other diseases is not right.”

In a related development, labour lawyers who are in support of the strike action of NARD, under the aegis of International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW), have said they are not comfortable with the order of the National Industrial Court directing the striking resident doctors to go back to work while the Federal Government are yet to meet their demands for salary arrears payment and improved welfare.

ILAW, which consists of 670 workers’ rights lawyers from more than 70 countries, pointed out that the court’s decision was against the spirit of the International Labour Law Conventions 87 and 98, “which protect workers’ fundamental rights to freely associate, to organise, to bargain collectively and to strike.”

What you should know

Recall that the resident doctors had on August 1, commenced the strike action over salary arrears owed by the government, irregular payment of salaries, among other welfare issues.
Efforts by the House of Representatives to mediate between the federal government and NARD ended in a deadlock.
The federal government then instituted a suit against the association, asking the court for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining members of NARD from continuing with the action.
The National Industrial Court had on September 17, ordered resident doctors to suspend their industrial action and go back to work immediately, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The adamant resident doctors appealed the ruling and accused the Industrial Court of not giving them a fair hearing.