A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and erstwhile National Publicity Secretary of the defunct New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, has appealed to the Federal Government to investigate the subversive role played by the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Medical Sciences, Otukpo, Benue State, Prof. Innocent Ujah in the recent nationwide strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors.
In a statement made available to media houses in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Chief Eze said a situation where a public officer, a Vice-Chancellor, who incongruously leads a Medical Union or pressure group of all Doctors in Nigeria (the Nigeria Medical Association), willfully issues a press statement, laden with falsehood, in order to incite doctors to strike, is tantamount to sabotage of the efforts of the Federal Government towards repositioning the health sector.
According to the party Chief, “the press statement which the NMA President issued on April 3rd, 2021, and a follow up interview on Channels television, where he accused the Federal Government of under developing the health system, while deliberately misrepresenting the statement by the Hon. Minister of Labour Employment, Senator Chris Ngige on residency training in Nigeria, compared to overseas, are orchestrated efforts to portray the Buhari administration in bad light and incite doctors to further action.
Eze said as the President of the NMA to which NARD is affiliated, the NMA President refused to ask the striking junior Doctors who are also public officers by the virtue of the Medical Residency Training Act, to go back to their jobs.
“Prof. Uja, as the President of the NMA is aware or preferred not to be aware of the existence of the Residency Training Fund in the Act. He is also aware that the Buhari administration in 2020 spent a whopping N4B as residency training allowance on books, journals, examination fees, special examination lectures, hotel accommodation among others, for resident doctors with Federal Government spending the sum of N542, 000 on each”.
“While the number five on the list of demands by NARD was about the short payment of 1003 of their members in the 2020 Residency Training Fund (RTF) disbursement, the leadership of NARD and NMA hid from Nigerians, the fact that the situation is largely as a result of an inexplicable decision of NARD to submit the names of these 588 undeserving persons to enjoy the largesse.”
“This act raises a big question mark on a possible nexus between the submission of non-qualified persons by NARD, fraudulent removal and receipt of government funds and the unlikelihood of such an ugly development without Prof Uja being in the picture”.
Similarly, Chief Eze said Prof. Uja is also very much aware that while Federal Government spent N32B in 2020 as covid-19 hazard allowance for Doctors and other health workers when it sensed the prevailing N5000 hazard allowance was little. Uja called this N32B approved by the Economic Sustainability Committee and where Doctors alone carted home about N10b a pittance.
“He also forgot that the same government also spent N9.3b to insure doctors and other federal civil servants from April 2020 -April 2021 in premium run by 13 insurance firms.
“These commitments notwithstanding, the NMA which could not organise doctors to liaise with the Chief Medical Directors in respective hospitals to push for the payment of death benefits of colleagues, who died while fighting covid-19, even when forms for such claims were circulated, turned round to support NARD to embark on nation-wide strike over its incompetence.
According to Eze, from reports available, Prof Uja had in February this year sent a team of the Remuneration Committee of the NMA to a meeting with the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment and National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission for the review of the N5000 hazard allowance.
“He knows full well that the review of the hazard allowance is work in progress as the Minister also later met with Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and few other health professionals but decided to subvert the effort by deliberately keeping this vital information away from the leadership of NARD and allowing them to use same as basis for an unfortunate strike.
“It is therefore beyond conjecture that the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Medical Sciences, Otukpo knew the extent of an unrelenting commitment of the Federal Government to the training of resident doctors and other efforts like the establishment of about 52 molecular laboratories in every Teaching Hospital and Federal Medical Centre, massive procurement of PPE- all costing about N126B but chose to align with detractors to pull the efforts down,” the statement said.
Eze further stated that while Uja accused the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige of hate speech capable of worsening the health sector crisis, it is obvious that in words and in conduct, it is Uja who is guilty of hate speech against the Federal Government through mischief of lies, misrepresentation and incitement of junior doctors to strike.
He argued that the Minister was right when he deployed the metaphorical clause “nobody pays” to connote that governments abroad do not engage directly in Residency Training, adding that investigations reveal that no government or institution employing doctors on fixed-term contracts pays for special lectures, books/journals, hotel accommodation and exams fees overseas as does the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“While residents abroad receive stipends despite heavier workload, resident doctors in Nigeria are treated as fully employed public servants, placed on government CONMESS salary structure with all privileges and this used as base for commencement of service year,” Eze added.
Eze finally cautioned that any act aimed at pulling down or sabotaging the genuine efforts of this administration to reposition both the Health Sector and other Sectors by any individual or group of individuals will no longer be condoned or tolerated.