It has been reported that the House of Representatives has forced a member, Simon Atigwe (Peoples Democratic Party/Enugu) to withdraw a bill seeking to bar health workers from going on strike.
According to reports, the proposal, which failed its second reading at the plenary on Wednesday, was against the provisions of the Constitution.
The proposed bill read that, “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Trade Disputes Act, Cap. T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to Prohibit Medical Practitioners in the Employment of Federal, State and Local Governments (as Employees in the Essential Service Sector) from Embarking on Strike and to Accelerate Administrative and Judicial Proceedings in the Determination of Trade Disputes Involving Them; and for Related Matters.”
In countering this bill, another member, Iduma Igariwey, had reportedly raised a point of order to cite Section 34(1)(c) of the Constitution, which prescribes that “no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”
Igariwey stated, “I have gone through the amendment he intends to make, that it is an offence for medical practitioners to go on strike. What it means is that at all times, they must be forced to work, whether the conditions are proper or not. I think it runs contrary to this constitutional provision.”
Buttressing this point, the Deputy Speaker made it known, “You can’t make a law that will be over and above the constitutional provision. The only way you can do that is to amend the Constitution before you now amend the law. It is their right to exercise.”
In response to this, the Deputy Speaker, Wase, maintained, “I’m referring you to the oath of office that you took. You are now bringing your personal matters. The day you took that oath, you swore to Nigerians that you would not allow your personal interest to influence you.”
However, the Deputy Speaker and other lawmakers then urged the sponsor to either step down the bill or withdraw it, and Atigwe withdrew the bill.