It is no longer news that the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has been on Strike for about sixteen days now and counting, with its attendant/devastating effect on the healthcare needs of the citizenry and common man evident across the length and breadth of the Nation. This decision to withdraw services from all the Tertiary Healthcare Institutions (THI’s) nationwide, was taken by NARD Nigeria, arising from her National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held at the Abia State capital, Umuahia, from 24th – 31st July, 2021 having taken into account the blatant refusal of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) to keep to agreements entered into freely with the Association and also taking a critical appraisal of the dire situation and impending catastrophe facing the Nigerian healthcare sector.
It must be noted that NARD Nigeria in a bid to show its humane nature and also grant the FGN ample opportunity to match words with action, regarding the several memoranda signed, suspended an earlier strike action about one hundred and twenty days ago, to this day, which the Government has not utilized, rather it chose to renege on the agreements with reckless abandonment. It should again be noted that, the Memorandum of Terms of Settlement (MOTOS) with the present FGN, was signed exactly five years and eleven months ago to this day.
What then is news, is the lackluster and insensitive response to the strike action, by agents of the FGN represented by the Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire and the Minister of Labour Sen. Dr. Chris Ngige [sic] both of whom, incidentally are medical doctors. What is rather shocking in the behaviour of both individuals is the fact that, despite having full knowledge of the various legitimate demands of NARD Nigeria as contained in the various signed memoranda, they rather than toe the path of dialogue, instead decided to go shopping for an exparte order from the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) ordering the members of NARD Nigeria back to work. Obviously the Hon. Justice of the Court, not being in any mood for their antics, ordered that they return to the negotiations table with NARD Nigeria, whilst adjourning the case to be heard in a month time. Now the question begging for an answer is, can the Nigerian public withstand the closure of THI’s nationwide for another month due to the acts of impunity, official rascality and a clear lack of patriotism by these agents of the FGN? Your guess is as good as mine.
Whilst the National Assembly members, made efforts to bring the NARD Nigeria to the negotiations table, the Ministers of Health and Labour, went on national television to issue threats of either implementing the “no work, no pay policy” or funny as it seems, outrightly effecting the sack of almost sixteen thousand Resident Doctors from the employ of the Federal Government. Now with this kind of mentality, coming at a time when the country is facing a far more deadlier third wave of COVID-19 (delta variant), coupled with the cholera outbreak that has claimed nothing less than about two thousand lives in the Northern part of Nigeria including the FCT, recently reported new case of circulating vaccine derived Poliovirus Type 2 detected in Adamawa State, by its State Ministry of Health officials in a country that had been certified by the WHO as Polio free, and a massive/unhindered braindrain of highly skilled workforce from the healthcare sector in the last two years, putting it in its simplest of phrases – a show of crass ineptitude by both officials of the FGN.
Please pay careful attention again to the fact that, within the context of a holistic interpretation of section 41(1), Trade Dispute Act (TDA) and section 30(6)(b) and (c) of the Trade Unions Act (TUA), the threats by both Ministers have no locus in law – The Center for Labour Studies, August 10, 2021. It again will be necessary to reemphasize and draw to the attention of the Nigerian people, the unmitigated braindrain and skilled professionals exodus, away from the country to foreign lands, triggered by the years of unending neglect meted out to the healthcare system in Nigeria. In a recent publication, the General Medical Council (GMC) in the United Kingdom expressly stated without ambiguity, the fact that between 2015 and July 2021, a total of four thousand, five hundred and twenty eight (4,528) Nigerian-trained medical doctors relocated to Britain. This is not including those who have travelled to the Arabian peninsula – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, since the easing of the COVID-19 restrictions.
From the foregoing, it should become immediately clear to the neutrals and critical thinkers, that the Nigerian healthcare sector is facing probably its biggest and worst nightmare and the onus resides squarely at the doorstep of the FGN, whose representatives must at this point eschew all acts of impunity and take deliberate steps to prevent the healthcare system from imminent and total collapse. The public must realize that NARD Nigeria has only taken steps to bring the deplorable situation to the fore, thereby forcing the Government of the day into action.
A stitch in time as they say, saves nine. The time to act is definitely now …
Antigha Cobham Writes from Calabar South, Cross River State, Nigeria. He is a former President of Association of Residents Doctors, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital Chapter.