On Friday, Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, was present at the induction ceremony of his daughter who graduated from the College of Medicine, University of Lagos.
Chris and his wife, Evelyn, were spotted at Old Great Hall, within the Lagos University Teaching Hospital College of Medicine. In a celebratory mood, they joined others to usher their daughter and her colleagues into the medical profession.
This is as resident doctors in the country marked 40 days of strike following breakdown in talks between their association, National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and the Federal Government.
On August 2, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, the NARD President, had said the strike was to get the government to honour an agreement on payment of arrears, hazard allowance and insurance benefits. However, the doctors are now being threatened with jail term.
According to a document dated September 3, 2021, and sighted by FIJ, the Ministry of Health and the Federal Government of Nigeria have filed a suit to compel the leadership and members of NARD to resume work or “be liable to be committed to prison”.
Both claimants cited directives contained in a ruling delivered on August 23, 2021, by Justice J. I. Targema.
The ruling sighted by FIJ read: “It is hereby ORDERED that the claimant/applicant and the defendants/respondents suspend all forms of hostilities forthwith pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice, and other orders made in respect of this suit against the judgement debtors.
“And this honourable court, having delivered its ruling, it is hereby ordered as described above. Further take notice that the enrolment order of the court is attached herewith.
“You will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison.”
Earlier, Ngige vowed not to pay the resident doctors for the period of their strike.
“I won’t meet them anymore because I have other things to do. I did two conciliation yesterday. Am I going to be wasting my time with them?” He was quoted to have said on a Channels Television programme.
“I have other tools within the labour laws and I will do it. I invoked Section 43 of the labour laws this afternoon. I have communicated it to NARD. They will not receive money for the period they are on strike and it will never count as a period of pensionable position in their career.”
The minister, who has kept the identity of his children a closely guarded secret, said in 2017 that he had a child affected by a strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities. Again, in 2020, he said one of his children was affected by another ASUU strike. On both occasions, he was the Minister of Labour and Employment.
FIJ learnt that Amaka, his daughter, graduated from Cherry Creek High School in 2013 before gaining admission to UNILAG, where she recently completed her degree programme.
Further findings revealed that Amaka is a director at Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige Foundation, an establishment set up by her father on September 30, 2013 — the same year she graduated from secondary school.
She is listed as Ms. Amaka Azuka Marilyn Ngige among other directors, including Emeka Ngige (SAN), Chris’ brother; Evlyn, his wife; Raphael, his first son who graduated from Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU) Medical College, Amaku, Awka, in 2020; and Andrew Ngige.
Ngige, a medical doctor himself, infamously said in 2019 that Nigeria has “more than enough” physicians to meet the needs of its nearly 200 million citizens. Meanwhile, Nigeria has just 2.27 doctors working in the country for every 10,000 people — a figure that compares poorly with other emerging economies like Brazil, and which would be judged “insufficient” by World Health Organization standards.
“We have more than enough doctors. You can quote me,” he had said. “We have surplus. If you have surplus, you export. There is nothing wrong in them travelling out. When they go abroad, they earn money and send them back home here.”
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