By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA–The National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, to call off the strike action they commenced since August 2.

The order followed a suit the Federal Government filed before the court to challenge the legality of the strike action.

FG, alongside the Federal Ministry of Health, had insisted that resident doctors embarked on the strike action, without proper notice as provided by the extant laws.

It argued that members of NARD, being of “essential services providers”, were prohibited by law from embarking on strike.

“The continued and sustained industrial action by the Defendant/Respondent is contrary to public policy and equally endangers the lives of the citizenry,” it added.

Though FG earlier threatened to invoke the no-work-no-pay policy against the Resident Doctors following their refusal to return to their duty posts over alleged irregular payment of their salaries, however, the court, in a ruling on August 23, ordered all the parties to “suspend all forms of hostilities”, pending determination of the suit.

At the resumed proceedings in the matter on Friday, Justice Bashir Alkali, ordered NARD to suspend the strike action, after he heard all the parties in the matter.

He held that FG 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.”

According to the Judge: “It is my firm believe that if the court does not intervene at this stage, there is no amount of money that can compensate the lives of Nigerians who would lose their lives if the members of the defendants continue with their strike.”

Besides, Justice Alkali said the parties ought to have utilized opportunity the court gave for an amicable settlement of the dispute.

“I find the application meritorious and I resolve the lone issue for determination in favour of the Claimant/Applicant.

“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 2nd of August 2021 pending the determination of the substantive suit.

“Also, I hereby order all members of the Defendant/Respondent in all the states of the federation to suspend the said industrial action commenced on the 2nd of August 2021 with immediate effect and to resume work immediately pending the determination of the substantive suit,” Justice Alkali held.

FG’s lawyer, Mr.Tochukwu Maduka, SAN, had prayed the court to order NARD to call off the strike, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

However, counsel to the resident doctors, Mr. Robinson Ariyo, urged the court to reject the application which he said would be at the detriment of his clients, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ariyo argued that members of the Defendant are persons entitled to emergency rights under the COVID-19 protection regulations.

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.

However, at the resumed sitting on Friday, FG, told the court that effort to amicably resolve the issue in dispute, failed.

It alleged that NARD, through its President, came up with a totally new terms of agreement, a claim that was denied by counsel to the resident doctors, who maintained that FG failed to initiate the negotiation process.

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