*Court orders doctors, FG to suspend hostilities till Sept 15
*We haven’t been served any court order — NARD President
*Says strike goes on
*Court order, welcome development —FG, Says court ruling won’t affect implementation of MoU
*NMA berates FMOH over face-off with doctors, Says 21 days of strike for Nigeria unacceptable, Notes going to court on part of govt hasty
*Dialogue with NARD now, Ojebelu charges FG
By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Gabriel Olawale & James Ogunnaike
Striking resident doctors remained adamant yesterday, as the Federal Government hailed the ruling of the National Industrial Court, NIC, which ordered the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, and the government to suspend all forms of hostilities till September 15.
National President of NARD, Dr. Osakhuesuyi Uyilawa, said yesterday that though his group was yet to be served with the court papers, the strike would go on.
Justice John Targema had given the order after he heard an ex-parte application the government filed against the striking doctors.
Government had in the application, prayed the court to grant two interim injunctions against members of NARD in all the states of the federation, pending the determination of the suit marked NICN/ABJ/197/2021.
It specifically applied for: “An order of interlocutory injunction restraining members of the Defendant/Respondent in all states of the federation from further continuing with the industrial action embarked upon on the 2nd day of August 2021, contrary to section 41 of the Trade Dispute Act, pending the termination of the substantive suit.”
It also applied for “An order of interlocutory injunction compelling all members of the Defendant/Respondent in all states of the federation to suspend the said industrial action which commenced on the 2nd August 2021 and resume work immediately, pending the determination of the substantive suit”.
However, in his ruling yesterday, Justice Targema, instead of granting the prayer as it was couched, rather issued an order that was directed at both the Claimants (Federal Ministry of Health and FG) and the Defendant/Respondent (NARD).
The judge said: “Upon reading the motion ex-parte and affidavit sworn to by Ahmed Nasiru of the Federal Ministry of Health and after hearing D. E. Kaswe for the Applicants, it is, hereby, ordered that the Claimants/Applicants and the Defendant/Respondent suspend all forms of hostilities forthwith, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”
The court subsequently adjourned the matter to September 15 to hear the substantive matter, even as it ordered service of all the relevant processes on NARD.
The Federal Government had in its suit, argued that resident doctors embarked on strike without proper notice as provided by the extant law.
It argued that members of NARD, being of “essential services providers”, are prohibited by law from embarking on strike.
“The continued and sustained industrial action by the Defendant/Respondent is contrary to public policy and equally endangers the lives of the citizenry,” it added.
Meanwhile, the order of the Industrial Court yesterday, came barely 24 hours after the federal government, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, NARD and other stakeholders in the health sector, reportedly reached an agreement over the 12-point demands by the doctors.
NARD had embarked on the strike over alleged inability of the government to meet with its demands.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, who is the federal government’s Conciliator-in-Chief, had earlier threatened to invoke the ‘no work, no pay’ policy in a bid to force the striking workers to suspend their ongoing strike.
We haven’t been served any court order — NARD President
Reacting to the order issued by the National Industrial Court, Abuja, yesterday, President of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctor, Dr. Osakhuesuyi Uyilawa, said they were yet to receive any court order and could not, therefore, comment on the issue based on social media report.
READ ALSO: Strike: Why we refused to sign MoU — Doctors
“We have not been served any order from the National Industrial Court. We only saw it on social media and we cannot be commenting on something we saw on social media. If we eventually receive it, we will brief our lawyer first. “
Asked why they refused to sign the MOU between NARD and the Federal Government, he said: “How can you beat me and expect me not to cry? Nobody does that,” he stated.
Court ruling won’t affect implementa-tion of MoU —FG
Reacting to the ruling, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, described the court ruling as a welcome develop-ment. Quoting the Minister in a statement, Deputy Director, Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, Ngige reassured “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.”
The Minister recalled that the “NMA had led three doctors’ associations to the negotiation that lasted from 2 pm on Friday, August 20, 2021 to the early hours of Saturday, August 21, adjourning 2.am and later resumed by 2pm and finally ending by 10.pm.”
NMA berates FMOH over face-off with doctors
Meanwhile, President of Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Professor Innocent Ujah, yesterday expressed frustration over what he described as insincerity on the part of the Federal Ministry of Health, FMOH, with regards to the ongoing strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD.
Ujah, who stated that the current situation was avoidable, regretted that the matters were left to degenerate because some people in the apex health ministry were not doing their jobs.
“In my own opinion as the President of NMA, this strike is avoidable because in April there was a strike by resident doctors and we convinced them to suspend the strike which they did, based on agreement we reached with government.
“The most common thing is that once the MoU is signed everybody goes to sleep. This is the part we want to appeal to Mr. President because it distorts the system. We expect that those who work with Mr President should be honest and truthful because 21 days of strike for a country like Nigeria is unacceptable.
“This kind of attitude is putting government in bad light. For instance, the issue of residency training fund, why is it not released up till now? You said the process is on from April till now, yet nothing has happened.”
Speaking on the new MoU signed with the Federal Government, Ujah said the agreement was that no doctors that took part in the strike will be victimised, adding that the only area of contention which the residence doctors were not satisfied with was the issue of no-work-no-pay.
Ujah, who disclosed that NMA’s intervention in the matter was a result of court issue, said: “Going to court on the part of government was hasty. The Federal Ministry of Health did not do the right thing by going to court, and the court has now adjourned to September 15 which means there would be no work till then. There was no reason for that action at all.
“We will continue to interface with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Labour to do the needful so that resident doctors can call off the strike. Unfortunately, as I am talking to you, so many Nigerian doctors are leaving the country and nobody appears to be concerned.
‘’Look at the issue of brain drain, what has government done to find out factors responsible for it? As I am talking, there are some interviews today by people from Saudi Arabia to recruit our doctors. It’s very sad that many of our people are suffering as a result of strike, we are not happy at all. But why did government have to wait till strike? I think some people are happy with the strike.’’
Dialogue with NARD now, Oje-belu charges FG
In a related development, the Acting Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta in Ogun State, Dr. Fidelis Ojeblenu, has urged the Federal Government to dialogue with NARD, towards ending its ongoing industrial action.
Ojeblenu urged government to consider the health of patients that could be in critical condition and should, as a matter of urgency, engage a round table discussion with the striking doctors to end the strike on time.
“Right from the beginning, you cannot do without dialogue, engagement is the most important thing, no matter how the strike is going to last you must still come to the round table to discuss. It is just simple, discussing terms and you enlist their trust and commitment.
“The Federal Government may not provide everything at once but once you see that commitment and they come to the understanding that you mean well; usually nobody wants to stay at home, it shouldn’t be difficult for both the doctors and the Federal Government to strike some agreement. It is only when you keep talking that solution will come and they can get an understanding,” he noted.