- While NARD sees it as ‘strike continuation’, FG views it as ‘return to work’
An order on Monday by the National Industrial Court, sitting in Abuja, that resident doctors currently on strike and a contending Federal Government should “cease hostilities” while the substantive suit lasts, has put parties involved in a quandary.
The former believes that the ruling which implies that they should maintain the status quo, also means their ongoing industrial action should continue.
But the federal government, on its part, has also interpreted the ruling to mean the doctors should “cease hostilities”, by returning to work, First News has gathered.
The court on Monday, meanwhile rejected an application by the federal government to order members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) on strike, to resume work.
The judge, Justice John Targema, rather ordered the two parties locked in the industrial dispute “to suspend all forms of hostilities and maintain status quo.”
The strike, which started on August 2, reached exactly three weeks on Monday.
The Monday ruling, however, was on an ex parte application jointly filed by the federal government and the Federal Ministry of Health.
It was the second time the judge would be refusing to categorically order the resident doctors to resume work, his Monday’s ruling coming about four days after rejecting a similar call by a civil society organisation, Rights for All International, last Thursday.
”Having looked especially on the affidavit of extreme urgency, the grounds of the application, the affidavit in support of same and arguments of counsel for the applicant.
“I also weighed the submissions and arguments of counsel on the law as it stands on this application.
”It is hereby ordered that claimant/applicant and the defendant/respondent suspend all forms of hostilities forthwith pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice,” the judge said on Monday.
Pundits have argued that 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.
That part of Monday’s ruling was absent in the one he delivered on a similar application by the Rights for All International, Thursday, last week.
But the judge, on August 19, refused to grant the group’s application on the grounds that he could not issue such a restraining order against the resident doctors in their absence.
Targema said in the ruling that granting the group’s application would amount to violating the resident doctors’ right to fair hearing.
The government’s application, being an ex parte motion like that of the CSO’s, was similarly heard by the judge in the absence of NARD on Monday.
The judge, after declining to grant the specific orders sought by the government, ordered that hearing notice be issued to the defendant, along with other processes which included the originating summons.
He ordered that the proof of service be kept in the case file before the next adjourned date.
Justice Targema then adjourned the matter to September 15 for hearing of the motion on notice “and/or any other pending application on its merit”.
The NARD began the ongoing strike on August 2, but no serious talks between them and the government had been held until late last week.
Members of the association constitute the largest proportion of physicians in Nigerian tertiary hospitals.
NARD claimed that one of its reasons for the strike was the failure of the government to meet its demands after they entered a memorandum of action in 2014.
The association demanded, among others, the withdrawal of the circular by the Head of Service removing House Officers from the scheme of service.
The applicants on their part in their affidavit in support of motion ex-parte had stated that the subject matter before the court was of serious urgency given its nature which had to do with life and death.
In addition, the affidavit said the industrial action by the respondent, which has been ongoing for three weeks, was causing Nigerian citizens pains and untold suffering.
The government said the strike ”is accounting for numerous death of persons who could not access the medical services provided by the respondent.”