Medical doctors working for the Lagos State Government on Monday began an indefinite strike over several protracted issues with the state government.
The Lagos doctors, under the aegis of the Medical Guild, are aggrieved over issues which include alleged engagement of doctors as casual workers and the withholding of doctors’ salaries for May 2012 and from August to September 2014 over the doctors involvement in industrial action.
Meanwhile the state government has described the current strike as illegal, just like the former one.
In a press statement signed by the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lateef Ibirogba, the government says it is a fact that those health workers who did not work during the stated period were not paid.
This, Mr Ibirogba said is in line with the “no work no pay rule” policy of the government which is in accordance with international employment practices and the Trade Disputes Act.
He therefore advised the Lagos doctors to resume at their respective duty positions while discussions with the state government are ongoing.
Doctors in Lagos State are threatening to go on strike.
The Medical Guild, a group of doctors working in the state government-owned hospitals made their intention known in a statement.
The group has said that it’s members would withdraw their services after the expiration of a 21-day notice issued by the guild to government on December 29, 2014.
The doctors are aggrieved over what they described as victimization and non-payment of August and September 2014 salaries.
The doctors had gone on a nationwide strike which was declared by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in July 2014, but the Lagos State Government has insisted on not paying them for the period, owing to it’s no-work-no-pay policy.
The Lagos doctors have called on the State Government to pay them or risk the provision of medical services in Lagos State taking a different turn early in the year.
The national body of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has directed all doctors under the umbrella body of the association to immediately resume work including those in Lagos State.
Addressing journalists after a five-hour emergency delegates on Saturday, the National President of the NMA, Dr Osahan Enabulele, said: “The EDM resolved that there should be an unconditional recall by issuance of individual letters of recall to all the 788 illegally sacked doctors in Lagos State, without any punitive measures.
“The EDM resolved that a meeting be convoked within two weeks from the EDM between NMA Lagos State Branch and the Lagos State government to sort out issues of withdrawal of sack letters and all agreements earlier freely entered into by the Lagos State government”.
The new doctors employed by the state government, have been ordered, by the Lagos State Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Edamisan Temiye, to reject their appointments.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Chairman accused the new doctors of undercutting their colleagues in dispute with the state government, an offence which he said was punishable under the Medical and Dental Council Act of Nigeria.
According to him, the association would be presenting the matter before the investigation panel of the council for appropriate sanctions against the doctors.
NMA stated, “We wish to warn all doctors that no one should doubt the association’s resolve to pursue this matter to a logical conclusion.”
Also, the Chairman of the Medical Guild, Dr. Olumuyiwa Odusote, in a statement accused the state government of stalling ongoing mediation by the Nigerian Bar Association committee aimed at brokering peace between both parties. According to him, the doctors have written a letter of appeal to the Health Service Commission and also answered the queries which preceeded their dismissal…”Embarking on indefinite strike is a selfish act, but sacking 788 doctors is also not the solution, it is sad when the government system is shut down, especially when the hope of many people is in government hospitals.”
The National Industrial Court, sitting in Lagos will on Thursday decide whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case instituted against the Lagos State Government by the 788 medical doctors whose appointment were recently terminated. Presiding justice Benedict Kanyip fixed the date after counsel to the two parties argued a preliminary objection filed by the State Government challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter.
The doctors in the suit instituted by both the Chairman of the Medical Guild, Olumuyiwa Odusote and the General Secretary, Idris Durojaiye, for themselves and on behalf of other members of the Guild had asked the court to void the identical dismissal letters issued to them by the government.
While arguing the objection, the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye, formulated two issues for the determination of the court.
He wants the court to strike out the suit on the ground that it was brought on behalf of the Medical Guild, an entity which is not a legal entity.
Mr Ipaye had also argued that the suit cannot be sustained by the Chairman and Secretary of the Medical Guild suing for themselves and on behalf of the Guild which is not a registered trade union.
He said for the doctors to sustain the action, it is essential that they show the contract that they are relying on to the court.
The Justice Commissioner also argued that the statement of claims of the claimants disclose no reasonable cause of action as it is predicated on an agreement purportedly reached between the defendants and the claimants on the full implementation of the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale(CONMESS).
He further declared that the claimants are not employees of the Federal Civil Service and as such cannot benefit from the CONMESS as approved by the Federal Government and that the state government had no agreement with the medical doctors to implement CONMESS upon which the reliefs sought by the claimants can be based.
In his response, counsel to the sacked doctors, Bamidele Aturu, alleged that that the application to challenge the jurisdiction of the court on these grounds is a technical move.
While admitting that the Medical Guild is not an incorporated association, he observed that it was allowed by the law to sue in a representative capacity.
Mr Aturu also stressed that, “where there has been a cause of dealings between an un-incorporated association and a party on employment issues and wage related matters, the party cannot resign from recognising such an un-incorporated body for the purposes of claims before a court of competent jurisdiction”.
Protesters for and against the sack of some Lagos state doctors on Tuesday stormed the National Industrial Court sitting in Lagos.
While they were demonstrating outside the court gates, the 788 sacked doctors were asking Justice Benedict Kanyip to void the dismissal letters issued to them.
The suit was instituted by both the Chairman of the Medical Guild, Olumuyiwa Odusote and the General Secretary, Idris Durojaiye, for themselves and on behalf of other members of the Guild.
Joined as defendants in the suit, were the Lagos State Government, the Lagos state Commissioner for Health, the Lagos State Health Service Commission and the State University Teaching Hospital Management Board.
In an application filed by their counsel, Bamidele Aturu, the doctors are equally seeking for “an order of injunction restraining the defendants from ejecting or continuing with the ejection from staff quarters of members of the medical guild and doctors who took part in the 3-day warning strike declared by the medical guild between the 11th and the 13th of April, 2012, as a result of the failure of the defendants to fully implement the agreement reached by the medical guild and the defendants”.
According to the doctors, the decision of the defendants on the issue is in violent violation and sabotage of the rule of law and utter disrespect for the dignity of the court.
The application could however not be argued by the applicants’ lawyer, Mr Aturu, as the state government is yet to file its counter-affidavit.
The Attorney-General of Lagos State, Ade Ipaye, told the court that he got the application on Tuesday. He however said that the government will be opposing the motion.
Responding to the issue raised by Mr Aturu concerning the forceful eviction of the sacked doctors by the Lagos State Government, Mr Ipaye said he is ready to give an undertaking that no one will be ejected until the matter is disposed of.
Justice Kanyip while adjourning the matter to the 22nd of May, for the hearing of the application further urged parties to seek for an amicable resolution of the matter in line with the provision of Section 20 of the National Industrial Court Act, 2006.
He declared that the court will accept the undertaking by the Attorney General as to the eviction of the doctors & grant an accelerated hearing of the matter.
With a case in court instituted by the striking doctors, legal practioner John Oloyede argues that it is illegal for the Lagos state government to have sacked the striking doctors.
According to him, the Lagos state government is in contempt of court. “If the government had done this before the suits were filled it will be solely an employer-employee tussle.”
He also notes that the hospitals are still functioning despite the moves taken by the state government in recruiting new doctors is in the interest of preserving people’s life.
The lawyer enjoined government to swallow its pride and call the doctors to the table for negiotiations.
SHASORE CALLS FOR NEGOTIATIONS
However, the former Commissioner of Justice in Lagos state, Mr Olasupo Shasore (SAN), speaking on our breakfast show, Sunrise Daily, says an understanding of constitutional democracy must be earnestly sought in order to make any headway.
The Lagos State Government on Thursday issued eviction notice to the recently sacked doctors who are still living in official quarters.
The eviction notices directed the doctors to vacate the quarters by Friday (Today).
The notices dated May 8, 2012, were signed by the Secretary of the Staff Housing Board for the Head of Service, I.A Shoyemi.
Each of the notices read: “Consequent upon your dismissal from the service of the Lagos State Government with effect from 4th May, 2012, and in accordance with the civil service rule, no officer shall continue to occupy the state government quarters after the date of his or her resignation/dismissal.
“I wish to request you to vacate the state government staff quarters.
The notices also directed the doctors to submit the keys to their quarters to Mr Shoyemi to “forestall forceful eviction.”
Reacting to the development, the first Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Lagos state chapter, Johnson Emene said that the association have told its members “not to panic.”
Speaking at the association’s congress at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Mr Emene said “You know Lagos State passed the Tenancy Law and with that it is in favour of the tenant, in this case our colleagues are tenants and Lagos State is the landlord.”
“As we said during the first meeting, we said members should not panic. Information will come out that seems as if the world would end.
“So they have given us till tomorrow. We are meeting. 10 a.m. tomorrow. The (NMA) president is meeting with the governor. Within the next 13 hours, we are going to know the outcome, so don’t let us rush.”
Section 12 of the Lagos Tenancy Law signed into law in August last year by the state governor, Babatunde Fashola, stipulates the period of notice to be given by either party to determine the tenancy.
One week notice for a tenant at will; one month notice for a monthly tenant; three months’ notice to a quarterly tenant; and six months’ notice for a yearly tenant.
However, the law states that in the case of a tenancy for a fixed term, no notice to quit shall be required once the tenancy has been determined by effluxion time.
And where the landlord intends to proceed to court to recover possession, he shall serve a seven-day written notice of his intention to apply to recover possession, according to the law.