Why NMA has not joined strike, an official speaks

ALTHOUGH government hospitals across the country are still open and rendering services, President, Nigerian Medial Association (NMA), Omede Idris, has hinted that doctors might join the on-going nationwide strike should the Federal Government allow it to drag on by failing to meet Labour’s demand on the fuel subsidy policy.

Idris also disclosed that the Presidency summoned the NMA leadership over its decision to participate in the on-going protests in the country.

The NMA joined the mass rally yesterday in Abuja.

Meanwhile, Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, has listed the benefits that would accrue to the health sector following the removal of subsidy on petrol in the country.

Chukwu, in an interview with The Guardian, said more funds would be made available to tackle some pressing needs in the health sector following the savings that would be made with the subsidy removal policy, which would be disbursed under the Subsidy Removal Empowerment (SURE) initiative.

He said the Maternal and Child Health (MNCH) and the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) initiatives of the ministry would be vigorously pursued as part of its Social Safety Nets (SSN) programme to the benefit of poor Nigerians within the purview of the SURE intervention.

Idris disclosed that the NMA leadership received a “strange invitation” from the Presidency last weekend after its fruitless attempts to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan him over the state of the nation’s health sector.

A reliable source told The Guardian that President Jonathan spoke on the “NMA strike notice, the removal of fuel subsidy,” stating that he was not aware of any industrial dispute between the NMA and the Federal Government that would make NMA go on strike.

The source said: “Jonathan explained that the removal of the fuel subsidy as painful as it is has become inevitable if Nigeria’s economy is not to crash and if infrastructure development is to be pursued.

“He strongly believes that the pains will be temporary once the developmental effects of the investment from the subsidy savings begin to manifest by mid 2013.”

Idris told the President that the NMA would join the protests and would not hesitate to go on strike if it dragged on.

The NMA leadership also inquired about the health bill and urged the President to sign it into law without delay in the best interest of Nigerians.

The President reportedly confirmed that the bill was on his table but worried about the cost implication of signing it into law.

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By Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos) and Lillian Chukwu (Abuja)

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