Continuation of strike by doctors contemptuous, says Ngige

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has frowned on the failure of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors to comply with the court order directing them to suspend their strike and resume, describing their action as contempt of court.

The National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja had on Friday ordered the doctors to resume work while continuing with its negotiations with the Federal Government.

Justice Bashar Alkali made the order on Friday while ruling on an application by the Federal Government in the suit against NARD.

The doctors had refused to resume, stating that they would appeal the order.

But responding to a question on the development while speaking on a television programme, ‘Politics Today,’ on Sunday, Ngige said NARD earlier submitted 8,000 names which was later pruned down to 5,000, noting that some doctors were recruited into service despite the embargo on recruitment.

Reacting to claims by a NARD official, Dr Julian Ojebo’s that the NARD would not suspend the strike, Ngige said, “That is contemptuous. That is contempt of the court decision.

“We will not bow down against contempt but I’m not interested in those things. It is the Minister of Health and Attorney-General that can be looking into those things. My take is to invite them back and show them the degree of implementation of the MoU they signed in my office. They refused to sign but their parent body, NMA signed, consultants association signed, and others.”

He denied that the Federal Government took a loan from the World Bank to settle the doctors, adding that questions on the borrowing should be directed to the Minister of Finance.

The minister said he has been discussing with the lawyer to the doctors, Femi Falana, SAN, on amicable settlement, but noted that NARD appeared to have many lawyers who wished to prolong the crisis.

He noted, “I have been speaking with their lawyer, Femi Falana but unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to me only Femi Falana that on this case.

“I spoke to him on Thursday and I know what we agreed on for them to come and sign the Memorandum of Understanding. I am not a lawyer but I have been going to court. No matter how bad a court order is, you obey it. An appeal doesn’t act as stay (of execution).”

When asked if he would withdraw the case, Ngige said he was just a conciliator, adding that only the health minister and the AGF could withdraw the suit.

‘It’s wrong for doctors to ignore court, Buhari’

The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, has said it was wrong for the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors to continue its strike despite the court order and the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari.

He also expressed the Federal Government’s readiness to engage striking members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors in fresh talks.

Mamora disclosed this in an interview with our correspondent on Sunday.

The National Industrial Court in Abuja had on Friday ordered resident doctors to suspend the ongoing strike which started on August 2.

But shortly after the court ruling, NARD, in a statement jointly signed by its President, Uyilawa’s Okhuaihesuyi; and Secretary General, Jerry Isogun, said the association would appeal the ruling and would not call off the strike until its demands were met.

But Mamora said some of the issues at stake did not qualify for a national strike because they were not national issues.

Mamora said, “For me personally, I consider it (continued strike) inappropriate particularly when the highest authority in the land, Mr President, has intervened and has pleaded with doctors to go back to work and continue with negotiations.

“People are dying and that is the truth. How do you bring back people who have passed on as a result of doctors not being at their duty posts? Some of these issues do not qualify for a national strike, as some of them are not national issues.

“By virtue of ethics, our oath of office as doctors is to save lives; that is the primary duty of a doctor.

“The court has given a ruling and they (the resident doctors) still insist on not going back to work. That is not a fair situation. Though they have indicated that they want to appeal which is not wrong, but at what cost?

“Engagement is still on and we will still invite them. All we can do is to continue to appeal that a strike during this period of a global pandemic and outbreaks of cholera and other diseases is not right.”

Also, at hospitals visited in Abuja on Sunday, including the Federal Medical Centre, Jabi; National Hospital, Abuja and the Gwarimpa District Hospital, no doctor was seen at duty post.

The executive members of NARD refused to talk on the record, attributing this decision to a directive by the court that all parties should stop talking about the issue in the media.

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