By Victor Ahiuma-Young

Abuja: The Federal Government on Thursday berated Human Rights activist  and Acting Chairman of the Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond, ASCAB,  Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, for allegedly advising members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD,  to continue their ongoing strike despite the ruling of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, NIC, asking the doctors to suspend the action.

Reacting to media report yesterday quoting Falana as calling on the federal government to meet doctors’ demands to pave way for the suspension of all hostilities, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, in a statement from his media office by Emmanuel  Nzomiwu, among others,  “chided Mr. Falana for offering a very strange interpretation of the court order in which he did not represent any of the parties when the case was first mentioned on August 16, 2021 and wondered what he stood to gain by using his position to misadvise young doctors in specialist training, to continue to ignore or disobey an order of court of competent jurisdiction to stop their strike.

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“In industrial dispute parlance, strike by an employee is a major form of “hostility” against the employer, in this case, the Federal Ministry of Health/Federal Government as well as the sick in various hospitals across the nation.  For the avoidance of doubt, hostility in labour relations in this particular parlance connotes strike or picketing by the affected employees (Resident doctors) or their employers who can equally use the opportunity to resort to the termination of their employment or recruitment of new doctors as allowed by the ILO Principles on strike for essential service workers lockout of the striking doctors from their hospitals and loss of employment).”

While noting that Falana is not an expert in Labour /industrial law , the Minister advised him to concentrate on the areas of law that he is very conversant with  than offering pieces of unsolicited advice to both parties as a Mr. Know-all.

Ngige observed  that Mr Falana is not familiar  with what the Federal Government has bent backward to do for the resident doctors to enhance the quality of their training, starting from putting them on a golden  scheme of service (CONMESS) within the period of training as a pensionable career  and the  enactment of the Medical Residency Training Act(MRTA) 2017, including a special Medical Residency Training Fund(MRTF)  put in place by this government to enhance the quality of specialist training .

“It is certain that Falana is not aware of the 12-point issue resolved at the 20th and 21st August meeting with the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and their affiliates.

“ Asking striking doctors to continue the strike is an unpatriotic act against the people who bear the brunt of the strike, otherwise how can the acting chairman of the Alliance for Surviving of COVID-19 and Beyond(ASCABAN)  an alliance professing to assist people survive this pandemic ,  advise striking doctors to continue a  strike which has  so far lasted 21 days and counting ,  in a period of national emergency  .

“A patriotic advice to NARD would have been for them to seek for interpretation or clarification of the order if really there is need for that, after ceasing hostility (strike) forthwith, as directed by the National Industrial Court.

“Who are the victims of the abandonment of medical care? Who knows?  May be  some people in some local governments of Falana’s Ekiti State  and possibly, the rural Anambra of Ngige,” the statement said.

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