FG agrees to appoint Surgeon-General of the Federation

By The Rainbow

President Goodluck Jonathan has agreed to appoint a Surgeon-General of the Federation as demanded by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), a competent source in the Presidency told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja.

The source told NAN that Jonathan gave the concession after a meeting he summoned to avert the NMA Jan. 6 planned industrial action.

The source said the person to be appointed to occupy the position would be a medical doctor.

It will be recalled that one of the demands of the NMA is that the Federal Government should appoint a medical doctor as Surgeon-General of the Federation.

The source also said the president had agreed that the call duty allowance of the doctors running into billions of naira be paid.

The source said that following the demand of the association, 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.

The source said Jonathan had directed the Ministry of Health to collaborate with Ministries of Finance, Trade and Investment in consulting with medical practitioners to supporting private investors to build state-of-the-art hospitals in the country.

The decisions, the source explained, were aimed at promoting local potential, improving fiscal policy on medical equipment and checking the growth of medical tourism.

The source said Jonathan also directed that before any government official would be allowed to travel abroad for medicals, government must first be satisfied that no such medical services exist in country.

According to the source, the president has also agreed to reform the National Health Insurance Scheme to make it more productive.

The source said the president had also consented to the demand of NMA to make its representation to the Nigeria Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.

The closed door meeting which was the fourth since December 2013 was attended by Gov. Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta, Ministers of Health and Labour, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, and Chukwuemeka Wogu.

The meeting held at the presidential Villa was also attended by the Director-General of Budget Office, Dr Bright Okogu; and the Chairman of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Chief Richard Egbule.

It will be recalled that the government had earlier met another demand by the NMA by re-constituting the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.

In an interview with State House correspondents after the meeting Uduaghan had said that the president conceded some demands by NMA to avert the strike.

Uduaghan, who did not reveal the concessions, said that the nation could not afford another strike in the medical sector.

The governor, who is a medical doctor, said the government team would later meet with the NMA on the new development.

The NMA, the umbrella body of Nigerian doctors, is threatening a full scale strike action from Monday January 6, 2014 after its earlier warning strike a few weeks ago was largely ignored by the government.

According to Uduaghan, some members present at the meeting have been directed to hold another meeting with NMA in the evening.

“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,' he said.

He said further, “We are going for a meeting now at 5pm 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 resolutions.

“Our determination is to ensure that that strike of January 6 is averted. Of course we can not afford another strike in the medical sector. One minute of strike in thesector by whatever body can be very disastrous.”

On the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he said, “We must separate issues of national dialogue from the issues in the PDP. National dialogue is to resolve issues in Nigeria, the one of the PDP is a different cattle of fish and issues that are decided by their top hierarchy of the party.”

He expressed his optimissim on the  that the President was taking the initiatives to organize various meetings in order to quickly deal with issues like the defection of PDP governors to All Progressives Congress (APC).

“I must say this that in politics, anything can happen. In politics, any person can take any position. So you must be ready for anybody that is ready to take any position. Just like people are leaving the party, people are also coming to the party. The thing is that as a party, there is no doubt that we have challenges at the moment and I think the President is taking the initiatives to organize various meetings that will quickly deal with these issues.”