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Nigerian doctors begin indefinite strike over payment and working conditions as Covid crisis continues

Doctors in Nigeria have begun an indefinite strike over what they say are late payment of wages and Covid allowances, as well as poor working conditions. The industrial action comes as hundreds of Covid cases are recorded daily.

The strike, led by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), which represents graduate doctors training to be specialists, commenced on Monday.

“The nationwide strike started at 8am. It’s an indefinite strike,” Dr. Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, president of NARD, said as cited by AFP.

“We appeal to Nigerians to bear with us. Doctors and their families are suffering. We can no longer pay our bills because of government’s insensitivity and neglect of our welfare.” 

Among the reasons for action, doctors in public hospitals have voiced dissatisfaction over the months of payment delays. Other issues raised include some medical staff not being paid Covid-19 allowances, shortage of medical equipment, and demands for life insurance coverage.

The protest comes after NARD and the National Executive Council unanimously decided to strike on Saturday.

Lagos state issued a plea on the eve of the strike, imploring doctors partaking in the industrial action to reconsider their choice. A previous strike in April saw doctors out of work for 10 days across the country, which crippled the healthcare system.

Nigeria recorded its highest number of cases ever at the end of January, with just under 2,500 reported on one day. While coronavirus cases are considerably lower lately, on July 30 and July 31, over 500 new infections were reported per day.

The country’s vaccination campaign is also severely sluggish. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has managed to fully vaccinate only 0.7% of its citizens, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Nigeria has registered over 174,000 coronavirus cases, with 2,149 people having lost their lives to the virus.