The National Industrial Court, Abuja, has fixed Friday for further hearing in a suit between the federal government and the striking members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).
The judge, Bashar Alkali, directed both parties to return to negotiation table with a view to resolving the industrial crisis that started on August 2.
He will on Friday take the report of the anticipated negotiation which both parties agreed to embark on at Wednesday’s proceedings.
Earlier, federal government’s lawyer, Tochukwu Maduka, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, had informed the judge of pending contempt suit he initiated against the leadership of NARD for allegedly violating the court’s previous order.
But in response, NARD’s lawyer, Femi Falana, also a SAN, said “it could not be said that a contempt suit was pending against his client’s leadership when Form 87 that ought to them to appear to show cause why they should not be jailed for allegedly violating a court order had not been filed and served on them”.
Mr Falana noted that the Form 86, which is a notice of disobedience of court, filed by the federal government ought to have been followed with Form 87.
In addition, Mr Falana noted that the order his client was accused of violating was that parties should end hostilities.
According to him, this implied that the order was directed at both parties and not against his client only.
He explained further that he had filed and served an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court, noting that the application should take precedent over any other one.
He also noted that the federal government did not challenge by filing a counter-affidavit and a written address against his client’s application challenging the court’s jurisdiction.
But Mr Maduka insisted that the contempt proceedings initiated on September 14 would take precedent over any other application,
He added that he had not been served with the doctors’ application challenging the jurisdiction of the court, a claim the court corrected by pointing to the proof of service of September 1 in the court’s file.
The lawyer then urged the court to give him time to respond to the defendant’s preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
‘We’re ready to negotiate’
Meanwhile, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Falana, in his closing remarks at the proceedings, urged the court to order the parties to return to the negotiation table, in line with the previous order as granted by the court ordering parties to cease all forms of hostilities.
Mr Maduka, however, stated that parties had been to an arbitration panel all to no avail.
He said despite court order that parties should cease hostilities, “the defendant had refused to return to work”.
He, however, said the government was open to negotiation.
Mr Falana, too, assured the court that his client was ready to cease hostility and return to negotiation table.
The judge then adjourned till Friday for report of the negotiation.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the federal government along with the ministry of health, had filed an ex-parte motion praying for some orders of the court.
The claimants had sought for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining members of the respondent in all States of the Federation from further continuing with the industrial action embarked on August 2.
Another order as sought by the applicants was for an order of interlocutory injunction compelling all members of the respondent in all States of the Federation to suspend the said industrial action.
The court on August 23 granted an order directing parties to cease all forms of hostilities.