The Federal Government, on Monday, described as “unworkable”, a bill currently being considered by the National Assembly seeking to restrict the migration of Nigerian doctors to climes perceived to be greener pastures.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, revealed this while fielding questions from journalists after the extraordinary Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the State House, Abuja.
Responding to a threat by resident doctors to embark on a five-day warning strike over perceived attempts to ground medical and dental graduates nationwide for five years before being granted a practising licence, Ngige said the bill negates extant Labour laws.
The sponsor of the bill, a member of the House of Representatives from Lagos State, Ganiyu Johnson, had explained that the move will check the mass exodus of medical practitioners from the country.
The legislation is titled, “A Bill for an Act to amend the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, Cap. M379, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to mandate any Nigeria-trained medical or dental practitioner to practise in Nigeria for a minimum of five years before being granted a full licence by the Council to make quality health services available to Nigeria; and for related matters.”
Reacting to the development, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors announced plans to embark on a five-day warning strike, vowing to resist any guise to “enslave” Nigerian medical doctors.
They also demanded an immediate increment in the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure to the tune of 200 per cent of the current gross salaries of doctors, the immediate implementation of CONMESS, domestication of the Medical Residency Training Act, and review of hazard allowance by all the state governments as well as private tertiary health institutions where any form of residency training is done; among others.
However, Ngige said, “Nobody can say they (doctors) will not get a practising licence until after five years. It will run contrary to the laws of the land that have established the progression in the practice of medicine.
“The Bill in the National Assembly cannot stop anybody from getting a full licence. That Bill is a private members’ bill. In the National Assembly, they attend to private members’ Bills and executive Bills.
Executive bills emanate from the government into the National Assembly with the stamp of the executive.
“It is either sent by the Attorney-General of the Federation or by the President, but usually from the Attorney-General of the Federation. So, it’s not an executive Bill, it’s a private member’s Bill.
“That document is, as far as I am concerned, not workable. Ab initio, I don’t support it and I will never support it.
“As I said before, it is like killing a fly with a sledgehammer. They should think of other ways if they are trying to check brain drain, there should be other ways.”
The Minister said the five-day strike is unnecessary since the government was already engaging with the Nigerian Medical Association, NARD’s umbrella body.
“On the demand for a 200 per cent salary increase, the NMA is the father of all doctors in Nigeria and they have about four or five affiliates of which the resident doctors are an association.
“So, NMA is discussing with the Federal Ministry of Health, salaries income and wages commission and the Ministry of Labour, and we know that NMA has accepted a salary increase of between 25 and 30 per cent across the board for their members.
“So, I don’t know the logic by which people who are members of NMA are now coming up to say pay us 200 per cent increase.
“I don’t understand it. I have called the NMA President to contact them because, on the issue of remuneration negotiation, it’s NMA that the government deals with. So, I have told the President of NMA to contact them and we will engage them. They should not go on any strike, it’s not necessary,” he said.
Ngige also revealed that the Council approved the Universal Implementation of the Employee Compensation Act 2010 following a memorandum presented by his ministry.
He explained that the law is operated by the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, noting that it will replace the old Employee Compensation Act also known as Workmen Compensation.
Ngige said the Council approved the ECA for universal implementation, “meaning that, apart from the private sector that is already implementing, the public sector, which is government; federal, state and local governments, have now to adopt this for the protection of their workers.
“The Act provides that the worker who is injured or had an accident or contracted a disease or disabled or dead in the course of work should be compensated, remunerated and even the family; pay something when the man is no longer there.
“It didn’t make provision for some of the children to be schooled or educated, up to the age of 21.
“So today is a good day for Nigerian workers because the decent work agenda that is contained in Convention 102 of the ILO has a major branch on what they call workers’ protection in the course of work.”