The Presiding Judge, National Industrial Court, Enugu Judicial Division, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Olukayode Arowosegbe has declared that Dr. Olusegun Olaopa a dental resident and all dental residents are entitled to the use of the title ‘Dr.’ and eminently qualified to belong to the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria.
However, the Court held that no specific provisions of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act give the NMA the right to the compulsory deduction from the source, that NMA and its branches lack the powers of compulsory deductions of any dues from the salary sources of members.
From facts, the learned counsel to the claimant Dr. Awkadigwe Ikenna had submitted that it was illegal for a mere branch to collect another round of dues after members had paid their annual dues that no prior consent of the members was obtained to deduct from the source.
The learned counsel argued that, the 1st defendant- Dr. Olusegun Olaopa a dental resident, could not lawfully take up the title ‘doctor’ without becoming an impostor, contrary to the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, that only medical practitioners and not dental surgeons could use the title doctor.
The learned counsel argued that it was impersonative for Dr. Olusegun, a dental surgeon, to be a member of NARD and more so, its president. The learned counsel argued that to obviate this misnomer, the name of the association must be changed from NARD to National Association of Resident Doctors and Dentists of Nigeria NARDD urged the Court annul the association and to hold that, its membership could not be made compulsory for all resident doctors by striking down the byelaw as being unconstitutional.
The 2nd defendant Dr. Ike Okwesili for and on behalf of himself and Nigerian Medical Association Enugu State Branch filed preliminary objection that claimant lacked locus to institute the action while the 3rd defendant’s objected that the suit was improperly constituted and, the proper parties were not before the Court that the reliefs sought have grave impacts on the NMA, yet the claimant failed to sue the NMA.
The learned counsel to the Dr. Olusegun argued that deduction of dues at source is with the consent of members and approved by the Hospital Management Boards that the custom of deduction of subscription from source had been in place since 1978.
On whether dentists are eligible to the use of ‘Dr.’, the learned counsel submitted that the medical profession includes surgeons, dentists, paediatricians, obstetricians and gynaecologists who are all and collectively referred to as doctors and that, they were all inducted into the profession together and all took the Hippocratic Oath and conferred with the title ‘Dr.’.
Delivering judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Arowosegbe held that NMA was both a necessary and proper party in the suit and that the omission of the NMA in the suit is fatal to the action.
“The argument that the proper order to make if the Court comes to the conclusion that the proper party was not before the Court is to order joinder and not strike out, is very incorrect because, it failed to take cognisance of the fact that, the case has been heard on the merit and reserved for judgment. This could only be right when NPO is heard in limine and ruling delivered in limine. Assuming my decision above in is right, I strike out this case.
“Nevertheless, assuming my decision above is not in tune with the superior wisdom of Court of Appeal, I shall proceed to examine the other issues in the matter for the sake of completeness to enable the Court of Appeal to have my decisions on all issues thus, obviating the necessity of ordering retrial; and thus, saving precious judicial time.
“The defendants, in this case, cannot, therefore, rely on the Medical Residency Training Act to justify the invasion of the employment rights of citizens by compulsorily deducting from sources of their salaries.
“If ever, deduction from a source must be made, it must be with the written consent of the residents and not the approval of the Hospital Management Boards, who are not the owners of the salaries. It is unheard of that a Board, not being the owner of the salaries, would approve deductions from source from the salaries of employees. It is only registration as trade union that can confer this right on any union or speciously very clear written consent of the employee.
“I also wish to add that, a consideration of the purposes of Medical Residency Training Act and the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act show that both medical practitioners and dental surgeons or practitioners are always treated at par.” Justice Arowosegbe Ruled