Nigerian Doctors Blast Minister Over Strike

Nigerian doctors have accused the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, for prolonging the seven-week long strike that has left millions of patients stranded amid the ongoing outbreak of the Ebola virus in the country. The doctors, under the umbrella of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), made this accusation on Thursday, 21 August, 2014, after the Nigerian Federal Government announced recently that it was suspending talks with NMA leaders. The doctors claimed the health minister had earlier assured them that negotiations with the government were fruitful and the strike would soon be suspended. The NMA, however, stated that reports that the government had suspended further negotiations with it were untrue. The Secretary-General of the union, Adewunmi Alayaki, while speaking with Premium Times, informed that the leadership of NMA was speaking with “government at a higher quarter”. He accused the Minister of Health, Mr. Chukwu, of undermining efforts to resolve the crisis and sponsoring reports that talks had been shelved. “Chukwu is saying his own,” said Mr. Alayaki. “All he is saying is just a distraction to the whole thing. And the whole body will now see what he has been doing to scuttle the efforts of NMA to suspend this strike.” Alayaki also accused the health minister of being the reason the strike has not been called off. “Even when we are at our meetings, the way and manner he speaks, he has been the clog to progress in our meetings. We are speaking at higher quarters, we know what they have told us, and we know the agreement we have had, only for him to go on air to say what he was saying. Everybody will now see who is the problem between the federal ministry of health and the NMA. It shows the direction. “Let Chukwu be saying whatever he is saying. But we are speaking with people higher than him. And if he likes, let him go and tell the whole world they have suspended negotiations because he is so irrelevant that’s why he is saying what he is saying. You cannot want solutions to a problem and you are creating more problems. He shouldn’t have done what he did. And if he really wants us to go to this roforofo fight (muddy fight), we would give it to him. We are only giving him respect as minister of health but if he now decides to do what he is doing, I think it is very wrong of him. But we are still speaking with government at a higher quarter than him, I won’t lie to you,” he said. However, the minister, through his spokesperson, Dan Nwomeh rejected all the allegations leveled against him. While speaking with newsmen, Nwomeh rubbished claims that the minister was frustrating attempts at ending the strike. He said the Federal Government had fulfilled over 80 percent of its own part of the agreement with the association, and assured that the process of resolving outstanding issues was in progress. He blamed the leadership of the NMA in particular for the strike and recalled that as the president of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), he once stepped aside and offered to resign his position rather than be pushed into an unnecessary strike by members over issues he was convinced could be resolved amicably through more dialogue. The minster regretted that despite several protracted meetings with the NMA, including the intervention of senior members of the profession, the NMA had remained adamant. He also disclosed that President Goodluck Jonathan personally met twice with the NMA without him (the minister of health) in attendance, in a bid to get to resolve the issues. It was reported on Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, that the Federal Government has suspended further negotiation with the NMA in order to resolve the ongoing doctors strike until a presidential committee of experts on inter-professional relationships in the public health sector finishes its work. According to the reports, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Pius Anyim, made the claim while receiving members of the committee in his office in Abuja. The Federal Government sacked about 16,000 of resident doctors last week over the prolonged strike they had embarked upon.


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