The Federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari has said it will no longer tolerate industrial strikes that do not follow due process, “particularly during the transition period of the current administration.”

The statement was made by the minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, on Thursday, October 20, 2022, shortly after receiving an ‘Award of Excellence’ conferred on him by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) at its 42nd Annual General Meeting/Scientific Conference.

Ngige noted that a committee at the Federal Ministry of Health, would, from next week, begin a dialogue with the resident doctors and members of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU).

Recall that on Friday, October 16, 2022, ASUU suspended its eight-month-old strike which had shut down public universities in the country to demand full implementation of agreements it had entered into with the Federal Government a few years ago.

While the strike lingered, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu Adamu, claimed that the government had resolved most of the demands of ASUU. Among the demands addressed, according to the Minister, was the release of N50 billion for the payment of earned allowances for universities’ academic and non-academic and non-academic staff.

However, ASUU refused to return to work following the government’s insistence not to pay the union’s arrears for the strike period.

The Federal Government then dragged the union to the National Industrial Court, asking the court to order the lecturer back to class. The National Industrial Court and subsequently the Court of Appeal ruled that the lecturers must return to the classroom as negotiations continue.

Speaking at the conference, the minister told the doctors that there was no need for them to issue strike threats when the government had put a process in motion to address their concerns.

He said: “The Federal Government will no longer tolerate strikes that do not pass through due process by any union, until the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in May next year.

“Any group that embarks on strike will be visited with Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act (TDA), 2004, which says that when a worker goes on strike, especially those on essential services, the employer can also refuse to pay compensation or wages which accompanies work done.

“The due process of a strike is that social dialogue negotiation with employers should be explored first and in the event of the failure, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment office in the affected state/Federal Capital Territory should be notified and finally, a Trade Dispute Notice (TDN) served.”

Ngige advised all aggrieved unions to emulate the doctors and commence proactive discussions with the government, rather than resort to strike whenever issues arose.

Reacting to the circular on the upward review of the Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF), he assured that the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission was working on it, adding that the area of domiciliation of the fund for residents would be addressed during negotiation to align it with the National Residency Training Fund Act, which is the guiding law, saying a circular derives its life from extant law.

According to him, the issue of non-payment of new hazard allowance to house officers was being addressed by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, as there was an inadvertent error in the submission of their list from the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN).

Ngige assured that the house officers would get their money since they were captured in the payment.

He, however, foreclosed the stoppage of the taxation of doctors’ call duty allowance, since it falls under the Personal Income Tax Act (PITA) tax, to be paid to the states under pay-as-you-earn (PAYE), which is deducted by IPPIS on behalf of the state where a medical institution is located.

He said: “The states have the right to collect the tax or grant waiver to you if they chose, but in granting you waiver, they must inform the Joint Tax Board (JTB), so that the Federal Government is not later made to bear that tax as happened in the past.

“This is one of the reasons the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is running away from the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform of the government.

“Before IPPIS, the JTB once billed the Federal Government about N800 billion as a shortfall of personal income tax, not paid to the states for four years. As doctors, I expect you to pay tax. What you should be asking for is enhanced pay,” he said.






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