The striking National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has vowed to defy Friday’s ruling of the National Industrial Court (NIC) ordering its members to return to their duty posts.
The order, which came almost seven weeks after the doctors embarked on the industrial action, was based on an application filed by the Nigerian government.
The government has sought an order of interlocutory injunction restraining members of the striking NARD across the country from further continuing with the industrial action.
The government is also seeking to legitimise the no-work-no-pay policy against doctors.
However, the court, in a ruling on August 23, ordered the parties to suspend all forms of hostilities and maintain the status quo ante.
In continuation of the hearing on Friday, Justice Bashar Alkali of the NIC ruled in favour of the government and ordered the striking doctors to resume work.
Justice Alkali said he based his order on the prevailing health crisis in Nigeria and the need for the doctors to resume duties as essential workers, to curtail the wave of COVID-19.
He said the counsel to the Nigerian government, Tochukwu Maduka, was “able to show that unless this application is granted, so many Nigerians will lose their lives, most especially as the country is experiencing an upsurge in this third wave of COVID-19 with increasing fatality arising from the absence of the defendants from hospitals.”
“It is my firm belief that if the court does not intervene at this stage, there is no amount of money that can compensate for the lives of Nigerians who would lose their lives if the members of the defendants continue with their strike.
“I find the application meritorious and I resolve the lone issue for determination in favour of the claimant applicant,” the judge held.
“I grant all the prayers as contained in the face of the motion paper and in effect, I hereby grant an order of interlocutory injunction that members of the defendant respondent in all the states of the federation are hereby restrained from continuing with the industrial action embarked on since on the second day of August 2021 pending the determination of the substantive suit.
“Also, I hereby order all members of the defendants/respondents in all the states of the federation to suspend the said industrial action commenced on the second day of August 2021 with immediate effect and to resume work immediately pending the determination of the substantive suit,” the judge added.
Responding to the court ruling, the NARD in a statement addressed to its members across the nation, said it is appealing the court ruling.
The statement was jointly signed by the NARD president, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, the union’s secretary, Jerry Isogun, and the publicity secretary, Dotun Oshikoya.
The statement said it has directed its lawyers to appeal the ruling and file for “stay of execution”.
“On 15/9/2021, the court reserved ruling on which Application the court would take first. Our lawyers had argued in the Court on 15/9/2021 that the Court ought to hear and determine our Notice of Preliminary Objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Court before taking the Application for Interlocutory injunction or any other application. The court adjourned ruling on the argument on that issue to today.
“Today, the Court ruled that it would take the Government’s Application for interlocutory injunction first and our NPO would be taken and determined along with the substantive suit.
“Also, our lawyers drew the attention of the Court to our application for stay of execution of the ex parte order and that the court should take that Application first. The Court insisted that the
Government Application would be taken first.
“On 15/9/21, the court ordered all parties to resume negotiations. The Government refused to resume negotiations in line with the order of 23/8/21. Our lawyers reported this development to the court. We have demonstrated good faith and would continue to do so.
“By the refusal of the court to hear and determine our Notice of Preliminary Objection before taking the Government’s Application for Interlocutory injunction, we believe we have been denied fair hearing which is a fundamental right.
“In the circumstances, we have instructed our lawyers to file necessary processes.
We urge all members to remain calm and resolute. Everything depends on our firm resolve”, the statement read.
Contacted Friday evening, the NARD president, Mr Okhuaihesuyi, said until the appeal is heard by the NIC, the union would continue with the strike.
Resident doctors across public health facilities in Nigeria have been on strike for over 40 days. They cited several reasons, including delays in the payment of their salaries and allowances.
The strike coincided with a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, leaving many worried that it could have serious consequences for the battle against the third wave of the pandemic.
Last year alone, medical practitioners were on strike three times over demands for allowances for treating COVID-19 patients and increment in basic salary.
NARD is also demanding the payment of COVID-19 treatment allowances in the absence of death-in-service insurance, having lost at least 19 of its members to the pandemic, while also protesting the shortage of manpower in public hospitals.
At the root of the strike action is the government’s constant failure to honour the agreement reached with NARD over its demands.
A meeting last month between the leaders of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), NARD and government representatives also failed to resolve the issues after the striking doctors backed out at the last minute.
While the federal government and the striking doctors continue to bicker, patients who throng public health facilities get little or no care.
Medical residents, doctors practising to become specialists, make up the larger number of the medical workforce across federal and state tertiary hospitals.
Therefore, their recent strike, the fourth and the longest since the COVID-19 pandemic began, has relatively paralysed the health system, with the patients bearing the brunt.
Most hospitals have long stopped admitting new patients while those on admission are sent home or directed to private health facilities.
Also, the crisis in the health sector may soon escalate with the threat by other associations in the sector to down tools if pending issues are not resolved before September 18.
The NMA, the Medical and Dental Consultants’ Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) and the Medical and Dental Doctors in Academics (MEDSABAM) unanimously agreed to join NARD if the government fails to resolve the pending issues on or before the deadline.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...