Nigeria public doctors end strike after talks with lawmakers

By Camillus Eboh

ABUJA (Reuters) – Frontline doctors in Nigerian public hospitals on Friday ended a three-week strike to press for a pay rise after the removal of a subsidy on petrol, the doctors’ union said.

The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) said the decision to end the strike followed “a very fruitful meeting” with lawmakers, led by the president of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, in the capital Abuja.

“From our interaction with the President of the Senate and the practical demonstration he did before us today, we are very confident that there will be light at the end of the tunnel,” NARD president Orji Emeka Innocent told reporters.

The doctors were the first public sector workers to strike after fuel prices more than tripled and increased transport fares following President Bola Tinubu’s decision to scrap the popular but expensive subsidy at the end of May, worsening the cost of living crisis in Africa’s biggest economy.

Resident doctors are medical school graduates training as specialists. They are pivotal to frontline healthcare in Nigeria as they dominate the emergency wards in its hospitals.

Akpabio commended the doctors for their “decision not only to cancel the planned public protest, but to also call off the strike in the interest of the suffering masses.”

Tinubu, who has embarked on Nigeria’s boldest reforms in decades, has been under pressure from unions to offer relief to households and small businesses after he scrapped the subsidy that kept petrol prices cheap but cost the government $10 billion last year.

The president, who was sworn in at the end of May following disputed elections in February, still does not have a team of ministers. But lawmakers on Aug. 7 approved 45 cabinet nominees, paving the way for their swearing-in as government ministers.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Elisha Bala-Gbogbo; Editing by Sandra Maler)