Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola has decided to recall the 788 doctors fired three weeks ago for going on strike to protest wages.
The Governor announced his decision on Thursday in a press release signed by his media aide, Hakeem Bello, who said the decision was made following “appeals and entreaties by national and state leadership of the Action Congress of Nigeria, traditional rulers, religious leaders, civil society groups and well meaning Nigerians”.
The statement announced that Governor Fashola “after consultation with the Health Service Commission has suspended the dismissal of the striking medical doctors in the State’s public service”.
The mass firing, which affected more than half of all physicians working in Lagos’ hospitals and clinics, had quickly spiraled into a controversial standoff with the Lagos state government. The sacked doctors had filed a lawsuit in the National Industrial Court opposing the government’s decision and demanding reinstatement.
Doctors from Federal Government Hospitals in the commercial city soon joined the state doctors in a solidarity strike and were soon followed by National Union of Petroleum and Gas workers who announced that they had already commenced on a sympathy strike on Tuesday.
Former Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, visited Fashola alongside some representatives at the Lagos House in Alausa, the statement said.
Tinubu had met with Fashola to discuss the worsening rift between government and medical practitioners and told reporters afterwards that the Action Congress of Nigeria party and its leaders felt Fashola should take a more soft approach in handling the matter.
“I have brought the appeal of all the leadership of the party and well meaning Nigerians and other organisations who are committed to the welfare of our people for him to be more flexible, for him to really look at the issue of the doctors on strike critically and I can announce to you that he has agreed to suspend the question of the dismissal of those doctors”, Asiwaju Tinubu stated.
Fashola, in the press briefing following the meeting, told reporters that he had received assurances from the Health Services Commission that the dismissal order will be lifted immediately, adding that “it is now left for the doctors to return to their locations and to regularize their status” with the commission.
“I hope that in the interest of our people, they will seize this opportunity of this olive branch and let us get on with developmental work that we are tasked with at this time. Once again, I want to thank all the officials for their support, for their appeals, advice and counsel. I assure them that we remain committed to providing the best service to the people”, the Governor reiterated.
Bamidele Aturu, the doctors’ lawyer, says the doctors are yet to receive official notification of the dismissal suspension, and it is unclear if their core grievance – their wages – will be addressed.
The doctors had initially embarked on the warning strike in April over the state government’s unwillingness to implement the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, which the government agreed to in March 2011.
However, Aturu says he believes the doctors would consider returning to their posts, the AP reported.