The President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Professor Innocent Uja, on Tuesday led the newly elected leadership of the association to a familiarisation meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige, in Abuja to discuss on how to resolve the face-off between the government and the resident doctors.
The NMA had attributed the ongoing strike by the resident doctors to the alleged uncooperative attitude of the immediate past leadership of NARD.
Speaking at the visit, the NMA President said, “I’m here with the newly elected officers of NARD. They came to me and we had a meeting, very cordial, meaningful interaction .And after that, I told them that I had secured appointment to introduce them to you which I thought should be private but even if it goes on CNN, it means we have opened a new chapter, very positive chapter because a chapter can be bad.
“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.
“I, as the President of the NMA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with every other persons here in my belief, in my considered opinion that we are working on the same platform, that we truly believe in what we signed and I have no doubt that what I signed was not in error.
“I signed with full understanding of the content of what we were signing . We believe that what is holding us from going back to work can be resolved. And we are not asking for everything now because there are twelve point agenda. Some can go for a while and others can be resolved today or would have been resolved yesterday.”
Assuring that the new leadership of NARD has a better understanding of the issues in contention and have a better approach to resolve them with the cooperation of the Federal government, Uja said, “This new leadership of NARD was only elected last Friday; they came to me and we had robust discussion and today, we are in your office. That will show you the seriousness of the new leadership of NARD. In the past, NARD elected officers and they never came to me, never came to the NMA. But here we are with you together, because we are all one .
“So, with these young boys I came with, I’m sure we can do a lot to ensure we normalise what is happening. We also know that at no time did the NMA back out from its support for NARD but if you know the insult I have been getting. But I’m not worried because it is a leader that gets insult. If our President can be insulted, then who is Uja? The most important thing is that we are focused on resolving these issues so that people will go back to work.
Former NARD leadership embarked on strike four times in 12 months
In his remark, Senator Ngige said it was unbelievable the former leadership of NARD took doctors to four different strikes in twelve calendar months, describing it as strange and a bastardisation of the medical profession.
According to Ngige, “that leadership was a bad example to the practice of medicine anywhere. Worst is that all their actions came against manifest efforts and commitment of the Federal Government to meet up with their demand. We all hope the new Exco, will be different. Let all of us as doctors say never again shall we allow our noble profession be dragged through this ignoble path.
“What do you say of a NARD leadership that gave me an award of honour less than a year ago? The leadership that in April this year, described me as a medical elder with contributions to the medicine practice, commending me for the swift resolution of each matter they bring forth.
“The same NARD that in July said Nigeria would be a better place with public servants like Ngige. It is the same NARD leadership in a strange swing of character, uncharacteristic of doctors, rebuffed the appeal by the President, the intervention by the National Assembly and all critical stakeholders, walked out on a well-thought-out Memorandum of Understanding signed by all the parties after two days of negotiation.
“An MOU that has all the elements intended to solve the lingering problems in the health sector once and for all. What kind of leadership is that?”
The Minister noted that the most strange and an all-time low was the attempt by the former leadership of NARD to justify its strike with comparison to that of university lecturers.
“ASUU, each time it goes on strike, comes back during agreement with a pledge to cover all lost hours and they do. But we doctors, how do we bring back those who have died in the hospitals because of the strike, because there was no doctor to treat them?
Ngige who narrated the trajectory of the strike added that he had to transmit the matter to the National Industrial Court when it became clear that NARD was not interested in the resolution of the dispute.
He expressed optimism that with the new steps by the NMA, leading the new NARD leadership, a silver lining was in space.