From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Indication emerged, yesterday, that the industrial action embarked on by doctors in public hospitals would soon end as the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and the Federal Government have resolved to sheath their swords and return to negotiation table
There have been efforts by stakeholders, including the House of Representatives to mediate between both parties that did not yield results.
On August 1, NARD embarked on strike over “irregular payment of salaries” among other issues.
The Nigeria Industrial Court had restrained members of NARD from continuing with the action, after the Federal Government filed a suit against the association on August 23.
Specifically, the court said: “It is hereby ordered that claimant/applicant and the defendant/respondent suspend all forms of hostilities forthwith pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”
At the court session, yesterday, Tochukwu Maduka, counsel representing the Federal Government, said he had filed a case of contempt against NARD.
“Despite the order of this court that all hostilities be suspended, the defendants who render essential services have refused to call off the strike,” he said.
Counsel for the doctors, Femi Falana told the court he had filed a further affidavit in support of notice for stay of execution. He also opposed the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case.
He said parties should go back to the negotiation table. He said going back to the negotiation table was in line with the order to suspend hostility.
Falana told Justice Alkali that his clients have agreed to meet with the Federal Government on the dispute that led to the strike with a view to find a common ground. He said a Memorandum of Understanding will be signed today by the doctors and agents of the federal government.
While Alkali stood down the matter for ruling, parties in the case gathered to reach a consensus.
Speaking with journalists after the court session, Maduka said: “Counsel for the resident doctors approached us on behalf of his clients indicating that they want the matter to be settled and that they are prepared to go back to work.
“We had consultations on both sides with our clients and with the lawyers of the government and we have agreed to come back on Friday to report the efforts we have made.”
“There is an agreement that was not signed by our client. We’ve studied the agreement and we have advised our client that since there is a clause in it that nobody shall be penalised or sanctioned for participating in the industrial action. We believe that there should be no inhibition in signing the agreement trusting that there would be good faith on the path of the government so that we can put this matter behind us.”
The judge adjourned the matter till tomorrow for ruling and asked parties in the suit to try and resolve the issues before then.