There is palpable fear of mass casualty in public hospitals and other health centres nationwide, as lingering disagreement between resident doctors currently on strike, and the federal government, fails to abate.
This is as the National Industrial Court in Abuja on Thursday rejected a request to order Nigerian resident doctors to suspend their almost three weeks old nationwide strike.
At the court, Justice John Targema, in rejecting an ex-parte application by a non-governmental organisation -Rights for All International, said he would not issue such an order behind the back of the doctors and other parties in the suit.
He said issuing “a restraining order” against the doctors to stop the strike without hearing them out would be in breach of their right to fair hearing.
A similar application earlier filed on Wednesday by the federal government along with the Ministry of Health, was also mentioned in court on Thursday but could not be heard owing to “non-compliance with procedures”.
First News’ investigations nationwide, however, indicate that the doctors’ strike has taken it’s toll on mostly impoverished Nigerian masses, many who cannot afford the luxury of getting healthcare in private hospitals.
Though death toll arising from the lingering strike is still to be computed, there are indications that it is collosal, three weeks on.
Members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), currently on strike, is believed to constitute the largest number of physicians across Nigeria’s tertiary hospitals.
They are demanding, among others, payment of COVID-19 inducement allowance and medical and life insurance for frontline doctors.
Meanwhile, Rights For All International, an NGO that prides itself as a defender of human rights, recently filed its ex parte application on August 16, urging the court to restrain members of the NARD from continuing their strike and order them to return to work.
Being an ex parte motion meant to be deployed in only cases considered urgent, the NGO’s application was heard in the absence of the NARD and other defendants on Thursday.
Justice Targema heard only the applicant’s lawyer, Nnamdi Okere, who painted a picture of “an extreme health emergency” requiring the doctors to be urgently ordered back to work.
The lawyer cited “the recent outbreak of cholera and the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in the death of over 3000 Nigerians.”
“The strike action amounts to an act calculated to obstruct the smooth running of essential service and therefore callous, ill-conceived, wicked, illegal, unconstitubonal, null and void,” Okere deposed in his application.
Okere also accused the resident doctors of failing to explore available legal remedies before downing tools on August 2.
But ruling after taking a short break to take a decision, the judge said he would not grant the application, but rather invite the doctors’ umbrella body, NARD, and other parties sued as defendants in the suit to come forward to state their side of the case.
Targema said granting the NGO’s application without hearing the defendants would amount to a breach of their constitutional right to fair hearing.
“The affected parties ought to be put on notice,” he said, adding that issuing a restraining order in their absence as requested by the applicant would be “in breach of section 31 of the 1999 Constitution.”