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Government, striking doctors resume talks as court adjourns suit till tomorrow

Respite appears in sight for Nigerians, as the striking Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and the Federal Government, yesterday, returned to the negotiation table for an end to the prolonged crisis.

Counsel to the doctors, Femi Falana (SAN), told Justice Bashar Alkali of the National Industrial Court in Abuja that his clients had agreed to meet with government to find a common ground.

The senior lawyer, who appeared before the judge in respect of the suit instituted against the doctors by the Ministry of Labour and Employment through the minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, informed the court that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be signed today by the medics and agents of the government.

This was after the feuding parties had argued the contempt charge filed against the doctors and the challenge to jurisdiction of the court to entertain the application.

Justice Alkali, who was delighted by the rapprochement, pleaded with both parties to prioritise national interest in the fresh peace efforts.

He subsequently fixed tomorrow for the parties to report back on the resolution of the dispute.

Falana later in an interview told The Guardian that the industrial action might be laid to rest once government and his clients iron out their differences amicably.

“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.

“So, we want to be on our way to go and sign our aspects of the agreement and we are hopeful that a common ground will be taken today,” he added.

The doctors started their strike on August 2, 2021 after the Federal Government failed to fulfil its agreement made with them through an MoU.

Chief among the 12 demands are: the payment of salaries owed 114 House Officers who are on the GIFMIS platform, withdrawal of the circular by the Head of Service removing House Officers from the Scheme of Service and payment of death in service insurance benefits to families of 21 doctors who died of COVID-19 in the line of duty.