President Muhammadu Buhari has called on striking health workers in Nigeria to return to work, urging that embarking on industrial action at a time when Nigerians need them the most is not the best action to take, no matter the grievances.

The President disclosed this on Friday in a meeting with the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) at the State House, Abuja, on Friday, and pleaded for health labour groups to settle for a negotiated agreement with the FG, according to NAN.

What the President said

The President said, “Protecting our citizens is not to be left to 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 Health workers will be settled.

“I learnt that some of the 12 points demand 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.”

Buhari added that the establishment circular issued by the Head of Service, removing House officers, and NYSC doctors from scheme of service had an addendum circular from National Salaries and Wages Commission to clarify that they would continue to earn the wages attached to them on their present wage structure. He stated that he personally requested that the agreement reached in the meetings of 20th and 21st of August be captured in the MOU which he saw religiously implemented.

The President added that the FG was 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 responsibilities 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 sociopolitical health and national stability,” he added.

On the role of healthcare in the economy…

Buhari added that the global economy had been seriously affected by the pandemic, and despite recent pleasing news of more than five per cent economic growth of Nigeria in the last quarter, Nigeria still had fiscal challenges to deal with, like most other countries.

“The source of revenue that Nigeria has depended on for so long experienced global decline, our population is rising fast and the tension arising from both is fueling agitation among our youth.

“Organizations like the NMA could play a very useful moderating role in society.

“This is a befitting role for the NMA, as a mature organization, led by responsible members with long experience.

I am proud also to learn of various feats that have been achieved in our hospitals,” he said.

He cited such feats to include the separation of conjoined twins and also the valiant efforts of health personnel in handling the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said that had earned them recognition at home and abroad, congratulating the NMA for the recent appointment of one of their members as Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization.

Federal Government announced that it had reached a truce deal with the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) over demands.

This was disclosed in a statement by the FG after the conciliation meeting at the office of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige. It came after JOHESU had earlier issued a 15-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to meet their demands or face strike.

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