The National Industrial Court has ordered resident doctors to suspend their industrial action and go back to work immediately, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The court asked all parties in the dispute to return to the negotiating table.
The order from Justice Bashar Alkali on Friday follows a suit instituted by the Federal Government against the resident doctors asking the court for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining members of NARD from continuing with the strike action.
What the Federal Government is asking for
Mr Tochukwu Maduka, Counsel to the Federal Government, had moved his motion for interlocutory injunction and prayed the court for an order restraining the defendant from continuing with the industrial action pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
According to him, the resident doctors are persons who provide essential services and cannot embark on strike as continuing to do so will wreak hardship on citizens.
What the NARD lawyer is saying
However, opposing the application for an interlocutory injunction by the federal government, the counsel to the resident doctors, Femi Aborishade, urged the court to discountenance their application.
Aborishade argued that the life of a medical doctor is not less useful than the life of an average human being and further pointed out that justice must be balanced, not just to the government, but also to the doctors who are the field marshals in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The vacation judge at the industrial court, Justice Bashar Alkali, was informed by the federal government and NARD, of their plans to negotiate and provide an update on Friday.
Both parties had on September 15, told the vacation judge, Justice Bashar Alkali, at the industrial court that they were set to negotiate and give the court an update by Friday.
But the process of negotiation and possible settlement failed.
The court held that there is no amount of money that will compensate for the loss of lives in the circumstances.
He held that the Federal Government and the Ministry of Health were able to show that unless the application for suspension of the strike was granted, so many Nigerians will lose their lives, most especially as the country is experiencing an upsurge in third wave of Covid-19, with increasing fatality arising from the absence of the defendants from hospitals
Speaking shortly after the court ruling, the counsel to the doctors said he would advise them accordingly and show them other options of appeal, but they would not disobey court orders.
What you should know
- The resident doctors had on August 1, commenced the strike action over irregular payment of salaries, among other issues.
- Efforts by the House of Representatives to mediate between the federal government and NARD ended in a deadlock.
- The federal government then instituted a suit against the association, asking the court for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining members of NARD from continuing with the action.
- It will be recalled that the court had in a ruling on August 23, ordered all the parties to “suspend all forms of hostilities” pending determination of the suit by FG marked NICN/ABJ/197/2021.
- The court, in another ruling last Wednesday, adjourned to enable the parties to pursue an out-of–court settlement.