National Industrial Court of Nigeria Orders FG and Resident Doctors To “Sheath Swords”

Justice John Tergema of the Abuja Division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, has ordered the federal government and Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) 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 NARD had on August 2, 2021 called out its members on an indefinite strike action across to protest what they said was a breach of agreement the association reached with the federal government to end its strike action 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 NARD as defendant.

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

Thus, 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.

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 had also last week also 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 action on grounds that it rancontrary 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 should suspend all forms of hostilities forthwith, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice”.

The judge in addition 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.

Ngige, who first mediated in the issue has reassured the affected doctors that the ruling would not prevent 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.