A potential clash between supporters of the dismissed Lagos State doctors and those in support of Babatunde Fashola, the state governor, was averted outside the National Industrial Court on Wednesday.
Brandishing placards outside the court house with such quotes as: ‘No to killer doctor. Resume your duty’, ‘Every profession with a sacrifice’, ‘Lagos doctors are the highest paid in Nigeria’, the pro-government supporters, who arrived in a chartered danfo bus, chanted songs telling the doctors to go back to work.
Standing closely but in the opposite direction and singing their solidarity songs were members of civil society groups.
With some of their placards accusing Mr. Fashola of ‘abandoning Lagosians and flying his father abroad’; the pro-doctors’ supporters accused their opponents of being paid to support the government.
“How do you return to negotiations when you have the Lagos state government using tax payers’ money to rent crowds,” said Abiodun Aremu, leader of the civil society groups.
Yusuf Kelani, one of the pro-Fashola supporters told Premium Times that he was not paid for his support.
“I wanted to visit somebody here (in Ikoyi) and I saw them (Fashola’s supporters), I took one of the placards and I’m here,” said Mr. Kelani, who lives in Mr. Fashola’s home council of Surulere local government.
At the end of the court hearing Justice Benedict Kanyip, the presiding judge, adjourned until next Tuesday the motion filed by the doctors over their dismissal by the state government.
Justice Kanyip also advised the two parties to continue with their dialogue towards resolving the crisis in the health sector.
“We still urge that whatever dialogue that is in the offing should still continue,” Justice Kanyip said.
“Parties can always negotiate an outcome,” he added. Bamidele Aturu, counsel to the doctors, accused the Lagos state government of “some kind of arrogance that we cannot understand” which is thwarting efforts to negotiate with them.
“As at 10p.m yesterday, the NMA (Nigeria Medical Association) had tried to broker a truce,” said Mr. Aturu.
“If you go to (the commissioner), he will say the Head of Service. If you go to the Head of Service, he will say the Governor.”
Ade Ipaye, counsel to the Lagos state government, absolved his employers of any blame in the affair.
“There are always possibilities for dialogue,” said Mr. Ipaye, the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.
“What has been happening is that in all of these, there have been several meetings, the doctors have consistently insisted on the same things,” Mr. Ipaye said.
On the issue of evicting the dismissed doctors from their residential quarters, Mr. Ipaye gave the court an undertaking that the action would stop.
“No one will be ejected from their quarters except due process of law is followed,” said Mr. Ipaye.
“Even if due process is followed, there will be no action until the court hears the proceedings,” he added.
Mr. Ipaye also accused Mr. Aturu of “playing with facts” when the latter stated that the state sacked about 1,000 doctors.
“How can 788 be about 1,000?”