Buhari’s government rejects bill seeking to halt doctors’ migration

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The Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari has rejected a bill seeking to restrict the migration of Nigerian doctors to climes perceived to be greener pastures, noting that it is “unworkable”.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, made the position known on Monday while fielding questions from State House Correspondents 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.

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While moving the legislation 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”, sponsor of the ill, a member of the House of Representatives from Lagos State, Ganiyu Johnson, had explained that the move will check the migration of medical practitioners from the country.

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 percent 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.

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“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.

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“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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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.

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