The House of Representatives on Wednesday threw out a bill seeking to bar health workers from embarking on strike.
A Peoples Democratic Party member representing Igbo Eze north/Udenu Federal constituency, Simon Atigwe, had presented the controversial bill to the house for debate.
However, the proposal failed to scale second reading at the plenary as the House argued that it was against the constitution.
Atigwe had titled the proposal, ‘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.’
Christopher Okwudili seconded the motion after Atigwe read the bill and called on the House to pass for second reading.
Ahmed Wase, the Deputy Speaker, who presided over the meeting had asked the sponsor to lead the debate on the bill before Iduma Igariwey raised a point that the bill violates Section 34(1)(c) of the Constitution, which prescribes that “no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”
“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,” Igariwey added.
In agreement with Igariwey, Wase, said, “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.”
Responding to the opposition, Atigwe stated that he sponsored the bill based on his experience.
He said, “My amendment is out of experience. I have lost so many of my loved ones through strikes by medical doctors. I feel that if we can checkmate them, then we can save lives. We are not saying they will be forced to be working; the law is providing procedures on how their issues should be handled.”
Faulting Atigwe’s argument, Wase, said, “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.”
The lawmakers went on to ask Atigwe to withdraw the bill, which he did.
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