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Resident doctors reject court ruling, file appeal

By Collins Olayinka and Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja 
18 September 2021   |   4:15 am
Peace is not yet in sight in the health sector as the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), yesterday, expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling of the National Industrial Court that restrained its members from continuing with the ongoing strike. 

• We Won’t Call Of Strike, NARD Vows
• FG Promises To Continue Conciliation Efforts

Peace is not yet in sight in the health sector as the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), yesterday, expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling of the National Industrial Court that restrained its members from continuing with the ongoing strike.

Consequently, the association has instructed its lawyers to appeal the ruling and file an application for stay of its execution.

NARD President, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, told The Guardian that the association would not call off the strike.

The National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja had, yesterday, ordered NARD to discontinue the strike pending the determination of the substantive suit before it.

Justice Bashar Alkali, who gave the order while ruling on an application filed by the Federal Government in the suit against NARD, held that there was no amount of money that would compensate for the loss of lives in the circumstances. He, therefore, ordered members of the association nationwide to return to work.

But, in a statement jointly signed by the NARD President, Okhuaihesuyi; Secretary General, Jerry Isogun and the Publicity and Social Secretary, Dr. Dotun Oshikoya, the association said that its lawyers had argued in the court on 15/9/2021 that the court ought to hear and determine its notice of preliminary objection challenging its jurisdiction before taking the application for interlocutory injunction or any other application.

The NARD leaders contended that by the refusal of the court to hear and determine the association’s notice of preliminary objection before taking the government’s application for interlocutory injunction, the resident doctors had been denied fair hearing which is a fundamental right, and in the circumstances, had instructed its lawyers to file necessary processes.

The statement read: “We are not satisfied with the ruling. After consultations with our lawyers, we have instructed them to appeal the ruling and file application 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 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.

“We urge all members to remain calm and resolute. Everything depends on our firm resolve. We are committed to protecting your rights within the confines of the law. We believe justice shall be ours ultimately.”

In its own reaction to the ruling, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment said it would continue to lead the conciliation procedure of promoting industrial peace in the country irrespective of the outcomes of the litigation between it and NARD.

An official of the ministry, who stated this in Abuja, yesterday, explained that resolving areas of disagreement would still require compromising and shifting of grounds for an enduring industrial atmosphere in the health sector.

The official, who craved anonymity, argued that in industrial relations, there are no victors and there are no vanquished.

“The tasks assigned to the ministry is to ensure there is industrial peace in the country. The ministry does not have enemies. Everyone that operates within the industrial space is our friend. Every action taken by unions is within their rights and in context of striving for a better life for their members. This is a fact that the ministry recognises. So, while we welcome the pronouncement, the ministry does not see it as victory for any particular person or group, but a route that will pave way for constructive engagement that will lead to final resolution of the industrial conflict,” he said.

Meanwhile, both the Federal Government and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) are expected to continue their negotiation on the proposed new hazard allowance for doctors working in government-owned hospitals next week.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige disclosed this Tuesday night after a marathon meeting of the Presidential Committee on Salaries with the leadership of NMA and its affiliates on the review of the hazard allowance in the health sector.

Ngige recalled that they started the discussion with all the health workers since March but along the line, NMA disagreed on fundamental principles of negotiation with the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU).