Striking Nigerian doctors suspend planned protest after meeting with Senate leadership

Doctors under the aegis of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have suspended their planned nationwide daily protest after a closed-door meeting with principal officers of the Senate on Tuesday.

The President of NARD, Emeka Orji, confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday morning.

A statement by the office of the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, had also hinted of the doctors’ decision in a statement shared with this newspaper.

Speaking with our reporter on the phone, Mr Orji said the planned protest slated for Wednesday (today) has been suspended, adding that there will be an update “in the next 72 hours.”

“We met with the Senate President, majority and minority leaders and Whip today,” he said.


“The planned protest slated for Wednesday has been suspended and we will review again in 72 hours.”

Senate intervention

In a separate statement obtained by this Newspaper on Tuesday night, the President of the Senate, Mr Akpabio, applauded the doctors for calling off the protest and also working towards calling off the strike.

According to the statement by Mr Akpabio’s media office, the Senate President said the doctors’ demands are well noted “and will be addressed as soon as a new minister is appointed for the health sector.”

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“I thank you on behalf of the Senate for honoring us with your decision not only to cancel the planned public protest but to also call off the strike in the interest of the suffering masses,” he said.

“Your demands are well noted and let me assure you that as soon as a Minister in charge of Health is appointed, the Senate will work with him or her to expeditiously address all your grievances.”

He said the President Bola Tinubu-led administration is doctors friendly and that his passion for the reform of the country’s health sector “explains the large number of medical practitioners appointed into his cabinet.”

He noted that strike by medical practitioners should not be allowed even for a day because of the impact it creates in the polity.

“That is why the senate is determined to ensure through interactions and consultation with relevant offices, the amicable settlement of the impasse is reached.”

Planned protest

The striking doctors had earlier planned to commence a daily peaceful protest, starting from Wednesday, if the government fails to meet their demands.

The decision followed the directive by the Nigerian government to the management of federal tertiary hospitals to commence the enforcement of the “no work, no pay” policy against the striking doctors.

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This policy means that the doctors who continue to stay away from their duty posts will not receive their regular salaries while the strike lasts.

In a letter dated 1 August, the government instructed the hospitals to implement the ‘no work, no pay’ policy and keep an attendance register for resident doctors willing to continue working despite the strike.

The striking doctors, however, said they are unmoved by the decision, noting that the government has no moral justification for its action.

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They said the protest had become necessary to press home their demands which they noted have been largely neglected by the government.

The association also accused the government of demonising doctors rather than making genuine and concerted efforts to resolve the challenges that led to the industrial action.

Doctor’s strike

The doctors embarked on an indefinite industrial action on 26 July following the failure of the Nigerian government to meet their demands.

The doctors are demanding, among other issues, the immediate payment of the 2023 Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF), tangible steps on the “upward review” of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS), and payment of all salary arrears owed its members since 2015.

The doctors also want the immediate massive recruitment of clinical staff in the hospitals and abolishment of the bureaucratic limitations to the immediate replacement of doctors and nurses who leave the system.

They also want the immediate review of hazard allowance by all the state governments as well as private tertiary health institutions where any form of residency training is done.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the strike disrupted health services in health facilities in major parts of the country.

The resident doctors comprise the bulk of medical personnel in Nigeria’s tertiary hospitals; hence health activities are mostly crippled when they are on strike

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