The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has told striking doctors and other health workers to return to their duty posts, saying embarking on industrial action when Nigerians need them the most is not the best action.

According to him, his regime has a good track record of paying all debts owed to government workers, while giving the assurance that outstanding benefits owed to medical doctors will be cleared after verifications.

According to a statement issued on Friday and signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, the President also pleaded with other health workers who are currently warming up for similar actions to reconsider their positions, saying the nation need them now more than ever before.

Mr Buhari made the plea on Friday while receiving the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) who paid him a visit at the state house in Abuja.

He said no matter how long negotiations may take, it is still the best way to resolve crisis.

Buhari said, “The lives of citizens that could be lost or damaged when doctors withdraw services, are precious enough to be worth opting for peaceful resolution of differences.

I learnt that some of the 12 points demanded in the ongoing strike were already addressed, though the review of a new hazard allowance has not been fully negotiated because of the sharp and deep division within the ranks of the striking doctors.’’

The President said the outstanding issue of an establishment circular issued by the Head of Service, removing House officers, NYSC doctors from scheme of service, had an addendum circular from National Salaries and Wages Commission to clarify that they will continue to earn the wages attached to them on their present wage structure.

I request that the agreement reached in the meetings of 20th and 21st August captured in the MOU which I have seen be religiously implemented,’’ he added.

To further improve the health sector, the President said budgetary allocations had been increased and a Health Sector Reform Committee, under the chairmanship of the Vice President, had been commissioned to identify and address weaknesses in the health system and align with global best practices that raise public confidence.

We are also supporting initiatives to expand health insurance coverage and bring more resources to health financing. We have many more challenges ahead and much more to do, for our large population.

“In this respect, it is important to remind you that, as senior medical personnel and representatives of one of the most respected professional groups in the world, your responsibility for the health and wellbeing of Nigerians are clear.

It does not end only with the welfare of your members, but continues with a sense of responsibility for the entire country and its socio-political health and national stability,’’ Buhari said.