The Abuja division of the National Industrial Court will today hear a suit filed by Doctors of the Association of Specialist Medical Doctors in Academics (ASMEDA) against Zainab Ahmed, The Minister of finance for failure to obey court order.
The claimants; Dr Christopher Sakpa, Dr Momoh Mcsionel, Dr Ahmed Rabiu and Dr Darlington Akukwu had on behalf of the affected members of ASMEDA, filed the motion against the defendants.
Other defendants in the suit included: The Chairman, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), Mr Ekpo Nta and the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Alhaji Ahmed Idris.
On September 29, 2009, The Federal government in a Circular referenced: SWC/S/04/S.410/220, approved a new salary structure for Medical and Dental Officers in the federal public service known as CONMESS.
However, On April 22, 2021, in a letter addressed to the Accountant-General of the Federation from Adighiogu Chiadi, the acting Director, Compensation, instructed that medical doctors in academics and research institutions be re-enrolled on the Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure (CONUASS).
Hence, the doctors approached the court in an ex-parte motion seeking an order of interim injunction, restraining the defendants from paying them salaries based on the April 22 letter pending the determination of the suit.
On July 23, 2021, The Court ordered the defendants ( Mrs Ahmed, AGF and NSIWC chairman) to pay the doctors based on the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and the Associated Allowances approved by the Federal Government on September 29, 2009.
Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae further restrained the defendants from acting on the contents of the April 22 letter issued by the salaries commission, pending the determination of the suit. The judge held that the order of interim injunction would subsist pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
Failure of the defendants to obey court’s order, the claimants In a motion on notice dated January 18, sought the leave of court to proceed with a committal proceeding for the failure of defendants to obey the Court’s order made on July 23, 2021.
A Committal proceeding simply means contempt proceedings. Contempt is done through the conduct or utterances of a person to the court in such away that diminishes the cause of justice.
It is criminal contempt when it is done before the court and it is civil contempt when it is done outside court.
In this case between the doctors and the minister and others, Disobeying the court’s order is a civil contempt unless there is another valid order vacating the earlier one.
Martin Agba, The Claimants Counsel averred that from August 2021 till date, the defendants are yet to fully comply with the July 23 order. As the doctors take home salary has been reduced by 60 per cent due to the directive.
The claimants, therefore, sought thus: “An order of the honourable court for committal of the named principal officers of the defendants for their disobedience jointly and severally to the interim restraining mandatory orders of injunctions of this court made on 23rd July 2021, and served on all the defendants on or about the 28th day of July 2021.”
The matter is slated today for hearing of all pending applications before Justice Obaseki-Osaghae of the National industrial court Abuja.
In the motion on notice marked: NICN/ABJ/145/2021, the claimants had sought an order of the court directing the defendants to pay the sum of N50 million to them as general and exemplary damages for deliberate breach of extant policy of the government.
They also asked the court to direct the defendants to pay the sum of N3 million as the cost of instituting the legal action.
They also sought an order of mandatory injunction, directing the defendants to restore the claimants to the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and associated allowances as approved by the Federal Government.
They sought a declaration of the court that the said letter is a violation of the presidential directive made on September 29, 2009.