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Court Orders FG, Striking Doctors to Sheath Swords

Fixes September 15 for hearing of FG’s suit, as govt welcomes rulingJustice John Tergema of the Abuja Division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, has ordered the federal government and Nigerian doctors to sheath their swords in the current battle over the legality or otherwise of the over three weeks industrial action that has crippled medical services across the country.

Justice Tergema made the order on Monday while delivering ruling in an application by the federal government seeking an order of court compelling the striking workers to return to work.

The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) had on August 2, 2021 called out its members on an indefinite strike to protest what they say is a breach of agreement the association reached with the federal government to end its strike of 2020.

However, after several efforts by the government to prevail on the doctors to return to work, the government approached the industrial court for an order to enforce its “no work, no pay” rule.

The suit with number NICN/ABJ/197/2021 has the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) as defendant.

Responding, the court had summoned the striking doctors to appear before it and show cause why their salaries should not be stopped as requested by the federal government.

However, when the matter came up last week, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, which had filed the suit on behalf of the federal government, was not in court, although the Federal Ministry of Health and the respondents were in court.

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In a short ruling, trial judge fixed September 15, 2021, for hearing of the originating summon.

The judge also directed that the defendant should appear on the next adjourned date to show cause why the “no work, no pay” rule should not be enforced against it.

The federal government seemed not satisfied and had last week approached the court for an order compelling the striking doctors to “suspend the said industrial action commenced on August 2 and resume work immediately, pending the determination of the substantive suit”.

The exparte application dated August 18, 2021, was argued on behalf of the federal government by Mr O. E. Kaswe, wherein he urged the court to restrain the doctors in all the states of the federation from further continuing with the strike on the grounds that it runs contrary to section 41 of the Trade Dispute Act.

The motion exparte was supported by an affidavit deposed to by one Ahmed Nasiru of the Federal Ministry of Health.

Delivering ruling in the exparte application, Justice Tergema ordered that: “The claimant/applicant and the defendant/respondent suspend all forms of hostilities forthwith, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”

The judge ordered that the defendant/respondent be served with the hearing notice and the originating processes, adding that proof of service be filed in the case file before the next adjourned date of September 15, 2021.

Members of the NARD had on August 2, 2021 renewed their industrial action to protest what they say is the failure of the government to meet its demands after the government entered into a memorandum of action that led to it calling off its strike in 2020.

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Specifically, they are protesting the government’s removal of House Officers from the scheme of service.

However, the government through the court action is seeking the punishment of the striking doctors for what it claimed is an abdication of responsibility.

Among the issues for determination by the court is whether or not the “no work, no pay” rule should not be applied against the defendant.

The suit also contained a prayer seeking an order of the court to direct the striking doctors to return to work immediately.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has described the court ruling as a welcome development.

Ngige, who first conciliated the issue between the NARD and their employers, the Federal Ministry of Health, however reassured the 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.

NMA had led three doctors associations to the negotiation that lasted from 2pm on Friday, August 20, 2021 to the early hours of Saturday, August 21, adjourning at 2.am and later resumed by 2pm and finally ending by 10.pm.

SOURCE :THIS DAY

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