NARD Strike – Health Sector Crisis is Deep-rooted in Systemic Failure

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Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has resolved to continue its indefinite strike action which commenced on 2 August. This resolution was reached at its Annual General Meeting held at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH), Bauchi State on 25 September.

Socialist Workers and Youth League (SWL) supports the resident doctors in their struggle and calls on the Federal Government to meet their demands. The Maj Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd)-led government’s refusal to heed these legitimate demands, which includes implementation of earlier reached collective agreements further exposes the regime’s utter failure and its anti-people character.

The Nigeria health sector is in rapid decline due to underfunding and total neglect by successive governments. The decay in the sector has been most exposed under the APC regime of Buhari. The country now has the fourth worst healthcare system in the world!

Millions of poor working-class people, including health workers, are at the receiving end of the failure of successive governments at all levels. The ruling elites are unaffected by the near total collapse of the healthcare system. These elements can fund medical tourism with monies looted from the national treasury. It is on record that Nigeria loses 576billion Naira annually to tourism.

Meanwhile, doctors in many states and federal health institutions have been denied their salaries for 20 months in some cases. It must be noted that almost all cadres of health workers equally suffer from non-payment of salaries, earned allowances, hazard, and other several other allowances.

Government funding of the health sector continues to dwindle even during the Covid-19 global health emergency. That is why doctors and other health workers have been made to bear a situation of non-payment of outstanding Covid-19 inducement allowances.

The issues raised by the striking doctors are symptomatic of the crisis which health workers are generally confronted with. We will recall that the Joint Health Sector Unions also issued a 15-day strike ultimatum on 4 September.

This is because the federal government has failed to fulfill outstanding collective agreements with JOHESU as well. Governments at all levels have demonstrated their disregard for collective agreements, even when the state calls for bargaining.

This shows us that social dialogue alone is not effective. Unions need to match negotiations with mass mobilization of rank-and-file workers, including industrial action. We thus urge JOHESU not to be deceived that the government would hearken to its demands by merely declaring an ultimatum. The current regime will not abide even by its own law until it is forced to do so.

Joint actions of all the health workers including the resident doctors are essential to bring meaningful change to the country’s healthcare system. Also, the solidarity of all Nigerian workers is very critical, we, therefore, call on NLC and TUC to support the doctor’s strike. The failing health system impacts adversely on millions of Nigerian workers.

The National Industrial Court’s 17 September ruling for the resident doctors to call of their strike without asking the government to address their demands is illegitimate.  It is an attempt to violate their fundamental rights to organize in defense of their interests as workers. We salute the doctors’ unshaken resolve in defiance of this reactionary judgment. Dare to struggle, dare to win!

by Lai BROWN

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