The Federal Government has said it had begun the payment of death benefits to deceased doctors and other health workers under the Group Life Insurance.

The government also said it had budgeted N4.3 billion as Residency Training Fund under the personnel costs in the Service Wide Votes.

Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige announced these on Thursday in Abuja after a meeting between representatives of the Federal Government and the leadership of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD), led by its President, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi.

The meeting held at the ministry’s Conference Room.

The government team was led by Health Minister Dr. Osagie Enahire; the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Abdulaziz Abdulahi; his Labour and Employment counterpart, Peter Yerima Tarfa; representatives of the Budget Office and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel information system (IPPIS).

The meeting, it was learnt, was convened to forestall another doctors’ strike.

The association had, in a communiqué issued on June 23, 2021, given a fresh four-week ultimatum to the Federal and state governments to address its demands, including the payment of hazard allowances.

To prevent a fresh strike, Dr. Ehanire had fixed a meeting to iron out the issues.

Rising from yesterday’s meeting, Ngige told reporters that evidence was tendered by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF) to show that insurance companies had started paying up.

The payment of benefits to deceased doctors is among the demands of the NARD.

Ngige said the evidence tendered at the meeting corroborated what the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi Esan, told the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

He said: “Over N1 billion is on for payment as death benefits. Evidence has been tendered about those who have received the cheques. And so, we are happy that something has been done in that direction in our health institutions.

“This is apart from what happens in other government establishments covered by this life insurance.”

The minister said work was in progress for those migrating from Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System (GIFMIS) platform to the IPPIS.

He explained that the Budget and IPPIS offices had been given about 30 days to conclude all outstanding issues.

Ngige said a committee had been constituted to examine tertiary institutions that are not adhering to the abolition of bench fees.

He said: “Bench fees are fees paid by resident doctors to institutions where they have gone to acquire trainings that are not available in their original training institutions.

“They (resident doctors) have claimed that some training hospitals, like the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and the University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan are not adhering to that agreement. A special committee has been set up under the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Health to look into it.

“The Chairman of Committee of Chief Medical Directors (CMDs), Prof. Jeff Momoh, who is the CMD of National Hospital in Abuja, will assist him. We hope that matter will be sorted out in two weeks.

“With all these and others, like consequential minimum wage salary adjustment arrears being taken care of, we hope that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of NARD, which is billed to meet sometime next week, will be happy and encourage their officers to dialogue.

“We don’t need strike anymore and they (resident doctors) agreed with me that we don’t need strike. So, it is work in progress. We thank them for the understanding they showed.”

NARD’s First Vice-President Arome Christopher Adejo said: “If more Nigerians were like Ngige, this country will be a better place.

“He has appealed to us and explained some things to us. We are reporting back to our NEC. That is our role. As officials of the association, we don’t take decisions. We listen and take back to the NEC and we do so with all sense of commitment, patriotism and love to our fellow Nigerians.”