The Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige has described the Nigerian Resident Doctors Quest of immediate withdrawal of the bill seeking to compel medical and dental graduates to render five-year compulsory services in Nigeria before being granted full licence to practise as sense of entitlement syndrome and said it is too much.
Recall that the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to the Federal Government are also demanding an immediate increment in the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure to the tune of 200 per cent of the current gross salaries.
Speaking on Arise Television on Monday, Ngige said the doctors’ demands were ’too much’, adding that they had the option of leaving the country.
According to Ngige, “If the NARD, who we have been managing their matter…We are giving them everything they want, including their Medical Resident Training Fund; we are paying them, even when in training, paying them full salary, paying them all the allowances and you decided that we have not done enough. Like I said before, you have an option to go. It is left for the education ministry and the health ministry to fashion out what they can do.
“You asked that a bill by one of the members of the House of Representatives be removed and that is one of the reasons you want to go on strike. How can the government tell a member who has done a private member’s bill… It is not even an executive bill, you now release it as one of the conditions of going on strike; that is absurd!
“The entitlements syndrome, the sense of entitlement is too much in this country and like I said earlier, you obey the law you look odd, you apply the law, you look odd or you are a wicked man. I don’t have any apologies for whatever I have done in the management of trade disputes.”
However, reacting to the statement of the labour minister, the Secretary-General of NARD,Dr. Chikezie Kelechi, said, “We do not have an entitlement mentality and our demands are not absurd. Every association deserves the right to ask for an increment in salary.
“The Medical Residency Training Fund has been there and has been paid about three times now. It is paid once a year and it was approved in 2017 and did not take effect until about three years ago. Even those three years, every time it is paid, there is a threat of a strike. The government does not ordinarily want to pay and these monies are appropriated but there is this unwillingness to pay. Every year, there has to be a threat of strike for them to pay.
“We are tired of getting the government to do what they are supposed to do naturally. The first round of update courses for the year has been done, the first round of exams for the year has been concluded and these monies were not paid. So, what is he saying?
“A fund has been provided in the budget but somebody is not willing to pay as and when due. It is not proper. When has demanding our rights become an entitlement mentality? When he said the government is providing everything we need, what exactly is being provided?
“The Consolidated Medical Salary Structure was approved in 2009 but did not take effect until 2014 and it was meant to be reviewed in five years but it started implementation in the next five years. We are in 2023, the salary structure has not been reviewed despite the inflation.”
Also, the President of the association, Emeka Orji, said doctors’ demands had been long overdue.
“We have not gone on strike for some time now because we are considering Nigerians but this particular ultimatum is about Nigerians and if you want to be sincere you will know that there is brain drain and it is affecting the functionality of our hospitals.
“People who visit public hospitals know that the quality of services has reduced, there is cancellation of surgeries and people are dying. We can’t wait until the system collapses, yet nobody has come out to address these issues or dispute it,” Orji said.