Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has advised the federal government to meet the demands of the striking National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) members, cautioning against the impression that a court stopped the doctors’ ongoing industrial action.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria said in a statement on Wednesday that the National Industrial Court in Abuja “did not grant the order of interim injunction” stopping the strike, contrary to the government’s claim and some media reports.
He said instead of granting the interim order sought by the government to stop the strike, the court in its ruling delivered on August 23 directed parties – the federal government and NARD – to “suspend all forms of hostilities forthwith pending the hearing and determination of motion on notice.”
Mr Falana, who attached a copy of the enrolled order of the court to his statement, therefore, advised the federal government “to meet the demands of the resident doctors without any further delay so as to pave way for the suspension of all forms of hostilities in the health sector”.
He described as “unfortunate” that the federal and state governments despite spending billions of naira to train medical personnel and other professionals “allow them to troop out to serve other countries where conditions of service are qualitatively better that what obtain in Nigeria”.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported that the court refused to order the striking members to order the striking members of NARD to resume work, amid many news platforms’ misleading reports that the court ordered the association to suspend their strike.
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”.
Government’s false claim
Shortly after the pronouncement of the court on Monday, the ministry of labour and employment had issued a statement announcing that the court already ordered the doctors to resume work.
The statement, which was signed by the ministry’s spokesperson, Charles Akpan, said the presiding judge granted the order of interlocutory injunction, “compelling all members of the Defendants/Respondents in all the states of the Federation to suspend the said industrial action,” a claim the certified true copy of the order has now shown to be patently false.
This newspaper reported that the Monday’s ruling asking the parties in the case to suspend hostilities came as a vague answer to the government’s application, which specifically sought an order of interlocutory injunction compelling the resident doctors across the country to suspend their industrial action they started on August 2.
Our report also indicated that it was the second time the judge would be refusing to order the resident doctors to resume work. His Monday’s ruling comes bout four days after rejecting a similar call by a civil society organisation, Rights for All International, last Thursday.
The ongoing industrial action by the resident doctors, who constitute the largest number of physicians across Nigeria’s tertiary hospitals, has continued to take its toll on the country’s already overstretched healthcare facilities.
The doctors’ grievances are contained in a Memorandum of Action (MOA), endorsed in April by both the striking doctors and the government representatives, including labour and employment minister, Chris Ngige.
They demanded, amongst others, payment of COVID-19 inducement allowances and medical and life insurance for frontline doctors.
Read Femi Falana’s full statement
In a move designed to end the industrial action by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) the Federal Government filed an ex parte motion at the National Industrial Court seeking to restrain the doctors from further continuing with the strike.
The court did not grant the order of interim injunction but directed both sides to ‘suspend all forms of hostilities forthwith pending the hearing and determination of motion on Notice’.
In view of the intervention of the National Industrial court in the dispute the Federal Government should meet the demands of the resident doctors without any further delay so as to pave way for the suspension of all forms of hostilities in the health sector. Since the Federal Government has continued to toy with the health of the people foreign medical treatment for public officers should be banned.
It is unfortunate to note that the Federal Government and State Governments which spend billions of Naira to train medical personnel and other professionals allow them to troop out to serve other countries where conditions of service are qualitatively better that what obtain in Nigeria. The dangerous trend must be halted by the governments.
Femi Falana SAN
Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB)
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