Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH) chapter of the Medical and Dental Consultants’ Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) has threatened to withdraw its membership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) if the battle against payment of their withheld salaries persisted in the institution.
The threat came two days after ASUU-UNIZIK leadership flayed Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige over what it called ‘divide-and-rule’ treatment of its members in salary payment of last year’s 8-months industrial action.
Chairperson, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh, had on Thursday, condemned Ngige’s approval for payment of withheld salaries of about 204 lecturers from the faculties of Basic Medical Sciences, Basic Clinical Sciences and Medicine of the institution.insisting that the entire institution was shutdown while the industrial action lasted.
But a statement signed by MDCAN NAUTH chairman, C. N. Ilokanuno, and Secretary, V. I. Modekwe, the body condemned attack on the minister, just as it refuted claims that the institution was entirely shutdown during the strike.
It criticized Ufoaroh’s outbursts, accusing him of spreading falsehood and towing path of tribalism against the Minister, regretting that such move has been responsible for continued drawback in the ASUU-FG negotiations.
The statement partly read: “The Medical and Dental Consultants’ Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) NAUTH Chapter has watched with amusement the recent unwarranted attack on the person of the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris N. Ngige.
“It was the lecturers of the three faculties of the Medical School of NAU that applied to the FG to be paid our 2022 withheld (and earned) salaries with evidences of lecture and academic activities during the strike. These documented evidences are available and the ASUU chairperson is aware of them, as he was a source of at least one of those evidences.
“Academic activities took place at our medical school during the strike. ASUU Chairperson was aware as he sent his team to disrupt some of them. He sent threat messages on some occasioned. He made threat calls on other occasions to our deans and lecturers.
“We conducted two (2) professional examinations during the strike. We graduated and held an induction ceremony during the strike. We held classroom lectures and active teachings at the clinics, wards, theatres, and emergency rooms. Tutorials took place. Our students signed an undertaking to be taught. Comrade Ufoaroh and ASUU members know that medical training takes place majorly at the clinical areas more than the classrooms.
“In fact we conducted another two (2) professional examinations immediately after the strike. This would not have been possible if the medical school was shut down as Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh alleged.
“Comrade Ufoaroh said that the university was shut down, but mischievously failed to point out that the faculties of basic clinical sciences and medicine are housed at the teaching hospital (NAUTH), which obviously cannot be closed by the Vice-Chancellor or Senate of the university.
“The faculty boards of the medical school held several meetings during the strike. And in one of the meetings, resolved to go on with academic activities without necessarily sabotaging ASUU effort. This is because the training of medical doctors do not follow same pattern as other professions. We cannot rush our students.
“We do not have vacations that we can use to cover up for the strike periods. We have not recovered from the 2020 strike (while other faculties and departments have). Again we are facing a man-power crisis in the medical field in Nigeria.
“Comrade Ufoaroh was aware of these meetings, the outcome and these arguments, hence his threats through text messages and calls, those times. How does one conceive and explain the idea that medical students should be away from training for a straight eight (8) months, and remain the same?
“Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh has thus become the first ASUU NAU Chairperson who insists that the medical school must be completely shut down during ASUU strike.
“We had done these for altruistic reasons. It was the reason we did not apply to have our salaries paid as at when due during the strike, which some other university medical schools did. We also refrained immediately after the strike as a way to support ASUU (of which we are members and to give her the chance to retrieve the salaries of her members).”