HEALTH minister Dr Chris Ngige has threatened Nigerian doctors who are currently embarking on industrial action to protest the fact that they are owed salary arrears and Covid-19 hazard payments with no pay unless they return to work immediately.
On Thursday April 1, Nigeria’s National Association of Resident Doctors (Nard) began an indefinite strike nationwide following the expiration of a 60-day ultimatum to the federal government to pay their members salary arrears and Covid-19 hazard allowances. Faced with a hectic workload as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, medical house officers across Nigeria have had a very tough year and as a result have asked to be well remunerated for their heavy workload.
They had asked that the government clear their backlog of salary arrears as well as pay them an agreed Covid-19 hazard allowance as is the practice everywhere else worldwide. Nard and the federal government agreed a meagre N5,000 hazard allowance but even this has not been paid, so following an extraordinary national executive council meeting in Abuja, the union decided it had no option but to call for industrial action.
Responding to their industrial action, Dr Ngige has threatened to invoke the no work, no pay rule during an recent interview on Channels Television. By Nigerian law, while workers unions are on strike, their members are still entitled to their full salaries.
Dr Ngige said: “By Tuesday, I will invite them back but if they become recalcitrant, there are things I can do. There are weapons in the labour laws I will invoke them. There is no work, no pay.”
Although the government has threatened striking workers with the no work no pay rule in the past, it was rarely implemented and when done, was often reversed after the strike was called off or suspended. While decrying the meagre N5,000 allowance paid to its members, Nard also noted that since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, it has lost 17 doctors, whose families and loved ones were yet to benefit from the Death in Service Insurance Scheme.
To make matters worse, President Muhammadu Buhari is currently receiving private medical treatment abroad in the UK. His presence in London has caused widespread anger across Nigeria, with diasporans protesting outside Abuja House, the official residence of the high commissioner.