ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Striking Nigerian doctors on Saturday said they will embark on a nationwide protest, accusing the country’s newly elected president of ignoring their demands for better pay, better work conditions and payment of owed earnings.
The protest, scheduled to start on Wednesday, adds to other challenges confronting Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, who is leading efforts by the West Africa regional bloc of ECOWAS — which he chairs — to restore democracy in Niger after last week’s coup.
The protest became necessary “to press home our demands, which have been largely neglected by our parent ministry and the federal government,” Dr. Innocent Orji, president of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, wrote in an Aug. 5 letter to the country’s ministry of health, a copy of which was made available to The Associated Press.
The resident doctors are graduate trainees providing critical care at public hospitals across Nigeria, which has one of the world’s lowest doctors-to-patients ratio, with two physicians per 10,000 residents, according to the Nigerian Medical Association.
The resident doctors have been on strike since July 26 to protest unpaid salaries and demand improvements in pay and working conditions. But instead of meeting their demands, the nation’s ministry of health directed a “no work, no pay” policy against them along with other “punitive measures,” Orji told The Associated Press.
In their letter to the health ministry, the doctors said they would also picket government offices and other institutions until their demands are met.
“We are pained that instead of making genuine and concerted efforts to resolve the challenges that led to the (strike) despite repeated ultimatums, our parent ministry and the federal government have chosen to demonize Nigerian resident doctors instead after all their sacrifices and patriotism,” the letter reads.
The planned protest follows a similar demonstration earlier this week by Nigerian trade unions protesting the soaring cost of living in Africa’s most populous country.
Some of the policies introduced by Tinubu since he took office in May have further squeezed millions in Nigeria who were already battling surging inflation, which stood at 22.7% in June, and a 63% rate of multidimensional poverty.
“This country is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, (and) focusing on local issues will be better for him,” Dr. Erondu Nnamdi Christian, a resident doctor in southeastern Abia state, said of Tinubu’s efforts in Niger. “Charity begins at home.”