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Alleged contempt: Court to hear suit against Finance Minister, others on Monday

By NAN
30 January 2022   |   12:21 pm
The National Industrial Court will on Monday hear alleged contempt suit file the Medical doctors, under the auspices of Association of Specialist Medical Doctors in Academics (ASMEDA).

Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning

The National Industrial Court will on Monday hear alleged contempt suit file the Medical doctors, under the auspices of Association of Specialist Medical Doctors in Academics (ASMEDA).

The ASMEDA filed the suit against the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, over alleged disregard to court order. Also joined in the motion on notice for committal for contempt of court marked: NICN/ABJ/145/2021 before Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae of the National Industrial Court, Abuja, include the Chairman, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), Mr Ekpo Nta; and Account-General of the Federation (AGF), Alhaji Ahmed Idris.

The court had, on July 23, 2021, in an ex-parte motion moved by counsel to the claimants, Martin Agba, ordered the defendants to pay the doctors based on the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and the Associated Allowances.

The salary was approved by the Federal Government on Sept. 29, 2009, which was the status quo, pending the determination of the suit.
But the claimants averred that from August 2021 till date, the defendants are yet to fully comply with the said order.

The claimants; Dr Christopher Sakpa, Dr Momoh Mcsionel, Dr Ahmed Rabiu and Dr Darlington Akukwu had, for themselves and on behalf of the affected members of ASMEDA, filed the motion against the defendants.

The NSIWC, AGF and finance minister are 1st to 3rd defendants respectively in the motion on notice dated Jan. 18 and filed by Agba on Jan. 26. The claimants had sought an order for leave of the court to proceed with committal proceedings for disobedience to its order “made on July 23, 2021 against the Executive Chairman of the 1st defendant, Chief Executive Officer of the 2nd defendant and the person of the 3rd defendant.

“An order of the honourable court for committal of the named principal officers of the defendants for their disobedience jointly and severally to the interim restraining and mandatory orders of injunctions of this court made on 23rd July, 2021, and served on all the defendants on or about the 28th day of July, 2021.”

The claimants prayed the court to proceed on the committal proceedings on the grounds that the court granted all their reliefs directing the defendants to restore them to the status quo as at April 2021 on the CONMESS and associated allowances pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

They said the enrollment order of the court was duly served on the defendants on or about July 28, 2021, followed up by an official letter dated Aug. 9, 2021, by their lawyer, urging the principal officers of the defendants to comply but failed to do so.

According to them, the 1st defendant has unilaterally threatened to direct the complete stoppage of payment of monthly salary of the claimants based on the CONMESS salary structure from the month of December 2021.

“The defendants jointly and severally have shown gross impunity by their willful disobedience to the order or directive of this honourable court made on July 23, 2021,” they averred.

The court had restrained the defendants from reviewing downward the salaries and allowances of members of ASMEDA. Justice Obaseki-Osaghae stopped all the defendants from acting on the contents of the April 22, 2021 letter issued by the Salaries Commission to the AGF (Accountant-General of the Federation).

The court held that the order of interim injunction would subsist pending the hearing and determination of the suit. Obaseki-Osaghae then adjourned the matter until Oct. 14, 2021 for hearing of the motion on notice but on the adjourned date, issues were joined by the parties.

She thereafter fixed Dec. 15, 2021 to hear all pending applications but on the said date, the court did not sit.
The case was then fixed for Jan. 31 (tomorrow) for hearing the pending applications.

The Federal Government had, on Sept. 29, 2009 in a circular with reference number: SWC/S/04/S.410/220, approved the new salary structure for medical and dental officers in the federal public service known as CONMESS.

However, in a letter with reference number: SWC/S/04/S.410/T/86 dated April 22, 2021 addressed to the AGF and signed by the acting Director, Compensation, Adighiogu Chiadi, on behalf of the chairman of NSIWC, directed that medical doctors in academics and research institutions should be re-enrolled on the Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure (CONUASS).

The claimants averred that since the latest directive took effect, their take-home pay had reduced drastically by about 60 per cent.