NARD appeals Industrial Court’s return-to-work ruling

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The leadership of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has instructed its counsel to appeal the ruling of the National Industrial Court, Abuja ordering the doctors to go back to work.

The doctors said they had also asked their lawyer file application for stay of execution of the court’s order.

Recall that the NIC had yesterday (Friday) ordered NARD to suspend its six-week-old strike and go back to work immediately pending the determination of the substantive suit.

All parties were also asked to return to the negotiating table.

Justice Bashar Alkali made the order while ruling on an application by the Federal Government.

The court held that there is no amount of money that will compensate for the loss of lives in the circumstances.

Counsel to the federal government, Mr. Tochukwu Maduka, had moved his motion for interlocutory injunction and prayed the court for an order restraining the doctors from continuing with the industrial action pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

He argued that the resident doctors are persons who provide essential services and cannot embark on strike as continuing to do so will wreak hardship on citizens.

Counsel to the resident doctors, Mr. Femi Aborishade, vehemently opposed the application for interlocutory injunction and urged the court to discountenance their application.

He contended that the life of a medical doctor is not any less useful than the life an average human being.

He 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.

Both parties had told the vacation judge, Justice Bashar Alkali, at the industrial court, on September 15 that they were set to negotiate and give the court an update by Friday.

But after taking arguments from the parties, the judge ruled in favour of the Federal Government and ordered the resident doctors back to work immediately and ordered the parties to go back to the negotiation table.

“It is my firm belief that if the court does not intervene, many Nigerians will lose their lives.

“In view of the fact, I found the application meritorious, I grant the application.

“I grant all the prayers as contained in the face of the motion paper and in effect, I hereby grant an order of interlocutory injunction that members of the defendant/respondent in all the states of the federation are hereby restrained from continuing with the industrial action embarked on since on the second day of August 2021 pending the determination of the substantive suit.

“Also, I hereby order all members of the defendants/respondents in all the states of the federation to suspend the said industrial action commenced on the second day of August 2021 with immediate effect and to resume work immediately pending the determination of the substantive suit,” Justice Alkali held.

Reacting to the ruling, NARD, in a statement marked NARD/SG/2020-2021/170921/83 jointly signed by its president, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, and secretary general, Dr Jerry Isogun, said it was not satisfied with the court’s order.

“As we are all aware, especially those that were present in court today, the NIC has given a ruling on the application for interlocutory injunction filed by the federal government. We are not satisfied with the ruling.

“After consultations with our lawyers, we have instructed our lawyers to appeal the ruling and file application for stay of execution.

“On September 15, 2021, the court reserved ruling on which application the court would take first. Our lawyers had argued in the court on that day that the court ought to hear and determine our notice of preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court before taking the application for interlocutory injunction or any other application.

“The court adjourned ruling on the argument on that issue till today (Friday). Today (Friday), the court ruled that it would take the government’s application for interlocutory injunction first and our NPO would be taken and determined along with the substantive suit.

“Also, our lawyers drew the attention of the court to our application for stay of execution of the ex parte order and that the court should take that application first. The court insisted that the government application would be taken first,” it said.

NARD added that while the court had on September 19 ordered all parties to resume negotiations, the government refused to resume negotiations in line with the order of August 23.

“Our lawyers reported this development to the court. We have demonstrated good faith and would continue to do so.

“By the refusal of the court to hear and determine our Notice of Preliminary Objection before taking the government’s application for interlocutory injunction, we believe we have been denied fair hearing which is a fundamental right.

“In the circumstances, we have instructed our lawyers to file necessary processes.

“We urge all members to remain calm and resolute. Everything depends on our firm resolve. We are committed to protecting your rights within the confines of the law. We believe justice shall be ours ultimately,” it stated.

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