In a bid to avert the planned strike by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), President Goodluck Jonathan has bowed to the demands of the association.
One of such major demands is the appointment of a Surgeon-General of the Federation, which the president has agreed that whoever occupies the position will be responsible for public health.
The government’s decision was made known after a meeting between the president and NMA, which was held yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The president also agreed to address the issue of the call duty allowances of the doctors running into billions of naira.
A source, who pleaded anonymity told newsmen at the end of the meeting that the government acceded to NMA’s demands for the appointment of a Surgeon-General of the Federation who must be a medical doctor.
According to him, the association had demanded that the appointee would be responsible for public health.
“The government has taken a decision to appoint a Surgeon-General of the Federation who will be a medical doctor and will be responsible for public health. That appointment will be announced soon,” the source said.
On the doctors’ request for the inclusion of their representatives in the proposed national dialogue, the government was said to have observed that there was no way a conference of such magnitude would hold without the representatives of trade unions.
The government had previously met one of the demands of the NMA by reconstituting the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.
A five-day warning strike was embarked upon by NMA in December as a means of pressing home its demands.
Also speaking after the meeting, Uduaghan informed State House correspondents that the federal government and stakeholders in the health sector had mapped out amicable ways to resolve the dispute with the NMA in order to avert the strike.
He said the president had shifted ground on some of the issues raised by NMA, adding that had the government allowed the doctors to embark on full scale strike, it would have been disastrous.
Uduaghan said he and other stakeholders were scheduled to meet with the association at 5 pm yesterday to convey Jonathan’s message to them and convince them on the need to shelve the strike.
“There are issues that have been raised by the Nigerian Medical Association for which they have threatened to go on strike. They had a warning strike for about five days, so the president called a stakeholders meeting to look at the issues.
“We are going for a meeting now at 5 pm with the NMA. At least, there are some things the president has consented to and I believe by the time we finish the meeting this evening, there will be some resolution.
“Our determination is to ensure that that strike of January 6 is averted. Of course we cannot afford another strike in the medical sector. One minute of strike in the health sector by whatever body can be very disastrous,” the governor said.
On oil theft, he said the scourge had reduced in the Niger Delta region, but added that a lot still needed to be done in the area of prosecution, monitoring and technology to bring an end to the problem.
“Let me emphasise that the volume of crude oil theft is reducing. Again, I must explain that at a time, oil theft was at its peak, there was a shut down of about 300,000 barrels of oil daily as a result of damage to two major pipelines and at that time, between 80,000 and 100,000 barrels per day were being stolen.
“That was the time we took some measures to ensure that the quantity that is being stolen is reduced. Today, I can tell you that the crude that is being stolen has been reduced to about 40,000 barrels per day.
“Those two pipelines are now functioning. So the 300,000 barrels per day that was shut in as a result to the damage to the pipelines is now being pumped.
“Stealing 40,000 barrels per day is still on the high side, but as we continue to put a lot of measures in place, especially in areas of prosecution, I believe that the quantity that is being stolen will gradually reduce if possible bring it to zero level.
Apart from prosecution, we are also talking of technology and monitoring to deal with oil theft,” Uduaghan said.