National Industrial Court, Lagos on Thursday rejected an application by the Lagos State Government seeking to terminate the suit filed by the sacked 788 doctors asking the court to reverse their dismissal from service.
The Chairman and General Secretary of Lagos State Medical Guild, Dr. Olumuyiwa Odusote and Dr. Idris Durojaiye respectively, had instituted the suit against the state government for themselves and on behalf of the Lagos State Medical Guild.
Justice Benedict Kanyip struck out the application affirming the competence of the suit and the court’s jurisdiction to hear it.
He said the matter should proceed to trial and be decided on merit to make “parties answerable for their actions”.
Kanyip said, “Take away the Medical Guild, what we have are two natural persons who have the power to sue and be sued.
“I hold that the court has jurisdiction to hear the matter and the suit is competent.”
He also dismissed the contention by the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye, that the court should refuse to hear the doctors’ suit for its alleged failure to disclose any reasonable cause of action.
Ipaye had said there was no agreement with the Medical Guild for the implementation of the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale, and such there was no basis for the suit.
But Kanyip held that the merit of the doctors’ suit would be determined during trial, adding that the suit’s subject matter fell within the purview of Section 254(c)(1) which conferred the jurisdiction to hear labour-related disputes on the National Industrial Court.
The court also turned down the request by the doctors’ counsel, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, to strike out government’s preliminary objection on the grounds that the person who signed the document on behalf of the Attorney-General failed to indicate his or her status, contrary to the court’s rules.
The judge said, “I do not think we should make an issue out of it,” adding that the law implores the court to be “flexible and less formal”.
Kanyip adjourned the matter till June 19 for hearing of the doctors’ application seeking the reversal of their sack.
But the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lateef Ibirogba, said it would be hasty to make comments, since the substansive suit was still pending in the court.
He said, “But the state government has been talking to the leadership of the doctors’ association. It shows that we want peace.”
Meanwhile, doctors in the South-West, under the auspices of the Nigerian Medical Association, have threatened to go on strike if the government failed to recall the sacked doctors.
Chairman of the NMA in the South-West, Dr. Toyin Adetan, stated this on Thursday in Akure.
Adetan, who is also the chairman of the medical association in Ondo State, said the government did not have any excuse to sack the doctors for demanding their legitimate rights.
He said, “A labourer deserves his wages and therefore it is unconstitutional and immoral that a government that prides itself as a progressive to now revert to military dictatorship even in a democratic regime.”
He described the sacking of the doctors as an affront on the medical profession and against international labour law.
In a related development, Odusote said the union had written Governor Babatunde Fashola asking for the reversal of the sacking.
According to him, the Guild, after a meeting with the members of the House of Representatives and the Nigerian Medical Association, wrote the letter to convince the governor on the need to reinstate the sacked doctors.
Odusote said, “The lawmakers asked us to write a formal letter to the governor asking him to reverse the sack
“They said they would take the letter to the governor to broker peace.”