The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) yesterday ordered striking resident doctors to return work immediately pending the determination of the suit filed by the Federal Government against the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).
Justice John Targema gave the order following an ex parte motion filed by the Ministry of Health on Friday, seeking an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the NARD from continuing with the strike that began on August 2.
The ministry contended that the strike was contrary to Section 41 of the Trade Dispute Act.
The court held that it made the order after careful consideration of the processes filed by the applicants. Justice Targema said: ”Having looked especially into 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 court further ordered that hearing notice be issued along with other processes including the originating summons be served on the respondent and proof of service to be kept in the case file before the next adjourned date.
The court subsequently adjourned the matter till September 15 for hearing of the motion on notice and/ or any other pending application on its merit. NARD had called the strike, stating that one of its reasons was that the government failed to meet its demands after they entered a memorandum of action in 2014.
The doctors claimed that one of the demands was for 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 strike action by the respondent which had been ongoing for than two weeks was wrecking pains and untold suffering on the citizenry.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, assured the NARD that the court order would not affect their recent agreement with the Federal Government.
Ngige, who described the court ruling as a welcome development on Monday in Abuja, stressed that 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 still stands.