The striking medical doctors in Lagos state this morning won the first round of their legal battle against the state government as the National Industrial Court sitting in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, assuming jurisdiction to hear the case, refused to sustain the objection filed by the defendants.
The Attorney-General of Lagos State, Ade Ipaye, on behalf of the state government and other defendants, filed a preliminary objection against the suit filed by the medical doctors.
He argued on two issues namely, that the Medical Guild had no locus standi to sue and that the suit displayed no cause of action.
Counsel to the striking doctors, Bamidele Aturu, told the court that the Guild could sue in representative capacity since the court had always permitted non-incorporated associations to sue in trade disputes.
In his ruling this morning, the presiding judge, Justice Benedict Kayip while citting series of authorities including Supreme Court Authority of India, said it is instructive and decisive that the right or wrong of the employer or employee must be determined based on principle of justice, equity and good conscience.
He said labour practices are not only in favour of the employer, but employees and the court has always permitted non-juristic persons to participate in labour disputes.
“I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that natural human being has the right to sue and be sued.
“National Industrial Court has the power to resolve labour disputes, industrial labour safety, welfare of workers and trade disputes,” the judge said.
The judge refused to declare whether the suit discloses a reasonable cause of action or not because this is what would be determined in the main suit.
The case has been adjourned till 19 June for hearing.
Meanwhile, the Head of Service, Lagos State, Mr Adesegun Ogunlewe, on Wednesday said the government might recall some of the recently sacked doctors.
Ogunlewe made the disclosure in Ikeja at a news briefing to mark Governor Babatunde Fashola’s fifth year in office.
He said some of the sacked doctors had already appealed to the government for a recall, saying the appropriate authorities were looking into their cases.
“Yes, some of the sacked doctors have appealed to the government.
“The relevant authorities of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) and Health Service Commission (HSC) are considering these cases.
“And very soon the results of the appeal will be made public“, Ogunlewe said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that 788 doctors were sacked on May 7 by the government for failing to respond to queries after embarking on “an illegal strike“.
The doctors, had under the aegis of the Medical Guild, embarked on a three-day warning strike from April 11 to April 13 and subsequently an indefinite strike on April 25 to demand for improved working conditions.
Ogunlewe ruled out a blanket recall of all the doctors, pointing out that LASUTH and HSC would have to determine those who merited re-absorption.
The Head of Service said the government was still in talks with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) on ways to iron out the differences.
He said the government sacked the doctors to save the state‘s health sector, stressing that the strike violated the terms and rules of their employment.
Ogunlewe said the strike was not justified, especially as the government had implemented the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS) for doctors in its employment.
The HOS explained that government had not embarked on the employment of workers recently because there was no vacancies for massive recruitment.
He, however, said 1,680 officers were recruited between June 2011 and April 2012 based on special needs.
“This figure covers those in other services except the local governments.
“Of course recently, the Ministry of Education placed advertisements for teaching positions, particularly in areas of critical needs of our schools,” he added.
Ogunlewe restated the government’s commitment to improving the welfare of workers, saying a lot had been done to demonstrate that commitment over the years.