There seems to be no resolution in the ongoing strike by Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) after 23 days, as they insist that the Federal Government must withdraw its suit against them at the National Industrial Court and the ‘no work, no pay’ order already being implemented against its members.
This is after the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), yesterday, rejected an application by the Federal Government to order striking members of NARD to resume work.
The judge, John Targema, rather ordered the two parties locked in the industrial dispute – members of NARD and the Federal Government – “to suspend all forms of hostilities and maintain status quo.”
The Federal Ministry of Health had last Friday sought an order of interlocutory injunction, restraining members of NARD from further continuing the industrial action that began on August 2, contrary to Section 41 of the Trade Dispute Act, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Justice John Targema, who gave the order while ruling on the ex-parte application, said: “Having looked especially on the affidavit of extreme urgency, the grounds of the application, the affidavit in support of same and arguments of counsel for the applicant, and after weighing the submissions and arguments of counsel on the law as it stands on this application, it is hereby ordered that claimant/applicant and the defendant/respondent suspend all forms of hostilities forthwith pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”
But in its response to the order, NARD said it is curious that a case that was adjourned till September 15, could be resurrected on August 23, without prior notice to the association.
President of NARD, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, said last night that it has not received any court judgment allegedly ordering it to suspend the ongoing nationwide strike, adding that it will amount to trial in absentia if the court truly gave such an order.
He stated that though NARD members are law-abiding citizens, they cannot call off the strike based on what they read on the social media, adding that it is a legal issue and has a process.
He said: “We did not know that they went to court. We did not hear anything from them. We are just getting the report from the social media. The only court we were taken to and we appeared was the National Industrial Court, which adjourned the matter for further hearing on September 15, 2021.
“I have not seen the court order, the social media is not an avenue for serving the court order, it is a legal issue. We were not in court, we were never served, this is a trial in absentia. We were in the court last week Monday and the case was adjourned to September 15. We never knew that they went back to the court today, we were never served, is that how the court operates?”
When asked whether the strike would be suspended if the association is eventually served the court order, Okhuaihesuyi, said: “Even if they eventually serve us, we will meet with our lawyer.”
On whether the strike is still on, the NARD president said: “Yes, the strike continues, we are law-abiding citizens, but we cannot rely on what we are reading in the social media.”
The motion, which was brought under Suit No: NICN/ABJ/197/2021, had the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Government as first and second claimants/applicants and NARD as the only defendant/respondent.
Upon hearing the motion ex-parte and affidavit in support sworn by Ahmed Nasiru, the Director of Legal Services, Federal Ministry of Health, the presiding judge, Justice John Targema, granted an order of interlocutory injunction, compelling all members of the defendants/respondents in all the states of the federation to suspend the said industrial action and resume work immediately pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The court held that the continued downing of tools by the striking doctors have inflicted a lot of damage on the health system and the sick amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The judge adjourned the matter to September 15, for the hearing of the motion on notice and any other pending application.
Reacting, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, who first mediated on the issue between NARD and their employers, the Federal Ministry of Health, described the court ruling as a welcome development, Newsonspot.com.ng reports.
Ngige, however, reassured the affected doctors that the ruling will not prevent the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget Office of the Federation (BOF), Office of the Head of Service of the Federation (OHOCSF) and the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages and Commission (NSIWC) from the implementation of the agreements contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reached at the last meeting with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and affiliate associations with timelines affixed to them.
NMA had led three doctors’ associations to the negotiation that lasted from 2:00p.m. on Friday, August 20, to the early hours of Saturday, August 21, adjourning at 2:00a.m. to later resume by 2:00p.m. and finally ending by 10:00p.m. of Saturday.