Adelani Adepegba, Lesi Nwisagbo and Deborah Tolu-Kolawole
24 August 2021
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The National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, ordered the National Association of Resident Doctors to suspend its strike, which commenced on August 2, 2021.
Justice John Targema made the order while delivering his ruling on an ex parte application brought before the court by the Federal Government.
The court stated that the application was granted after carefully considering the processes filed by the applicants.
But NARD, in its reaction, said it would not suspend the strike despite the court ruling.
Earlier, Justice Targema had stated, “Having looked especially at the affidavit of extreme urgency, the grounds of the application, the affidavit in support of the same and arguments of counsel for the applicant, I also weighed the submissions and arguments of counsel on the law as it stands on this application, it is hereby ordered that the claimant/applicant and the defendant/respondent suspend all forms of hostilities forthwith pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”
He also ordered the issuance and service of hearing notice for the motion on notice to be served.
The judge added, “This matter is accordingly adjourned to September 15, 2021 for hearing of the motion on notice and/or any other pending application.
“The hearing notice and the originating processes be issued and served on the defendant/respondent. Proof of service of the same should be filed in the case file before the adjourned date.”
Recall that the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Labour and Employment, had filed an ex parte motion praying the court for an interlocutory injunction restraining the members of NARD in all the states of the federation from continuing with the strike action.
In the affidavit supporting its application, the Federal Government had argued that the matter at stake bordered on life and death, and was an urgent one, which needed the court’s intervention.
It stated that the strike, which has lasted three weeks, had caused untold suffering to the people and accounted for the death of persons who could not access the medical services provided by the respondents.
NARD had earlier stated that the strike action was as a result of the government’s failure to meet its demands as contained in the Memorandum of Action endorsed by both parties in 2014.
We won’t resume despite court order, says NARD
But NARD, on Monday, said its members would not suspend the ongoing strike despite the order of the National Industrial Court.
The association’s National President, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, disclosed this in an interview with The PUNCH shortly after the court made the order.
Okhuaihesuyi said the association had not received any order and would therefore not suspend the industrial action.
“We have not received any order; we only saw the news on social media. We will not be resuming work,” he said.
FG committed to MoA implementation despite court order, says Ngige
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said the Memorandum of Action it signed with the Nigerian Medical Association will be faithfully implemented.
It noted that the judgment of the National Industrial Court directing the striking resident doctors to resume work would not affect the implementation of the MoU, which was inked on Saturday.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, gave the assurance in his reaction to the court order on Monday, according to a statement by the ministry’s spokesman, Charles Akpan.
It was titled, ‘Court orders striking doctors to resume work immediately’.
The order was made following an ex parte motion filed last Friday by the Federal Ministry of Health seeking an order of interlocutory injunction restraining members of NARD from further continuing the industrial action they embarked upon on August 2, 2021, contrary to Section 41 of the Trade Dispute Act, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
But reacting to the development, Ngige, who first conciliated the issue between NARD and its members’ employers, described the court ruling as a welcome development.
The statement said, “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, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages and Commission from the implementation of the agreements contained in the Memorandum of Understanding reached at the last meeting with the Nigerian Medical Association and affiliate associations with timelines affixed to them.”