HomeNewsNMA Membership Not Compulsory For Doctors, Court Rules

NMA Membership Not Compulsory For Doctors, Court Rules

The Federal High Court has declared in a landmark judgement that membership of the National Medical Association (NMA) was voluntary in line with Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

Justice D.U. Okorowo of the Federal High Court in Abuja gave the ruling in a judgement delivered on May 6, 2024, in a suit brought by Dr. Olusola Adeyelu against the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria and The Incorporated Trustees of Nigerian Medical Association as Defendants.

The court affirmed the submissions made by the plaintiff on his right to freedom of association.

It also affirmed the right of Dr. Olusola Adeyelu to associate or dissociate from the Nigerian Medical Association.

The court held that under Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons. The court noted the plaintiff may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests, adding that the membership of the Nigerian Medical Association cannot be mandatory or imposed but rather voluntary for medical doctors in Nigeria.

In 2019, Adeyelu, a Nigerian activist and specialist respiratory physician, after alleging a lack of internal democracy in the running of the affairs of the NMA, particularly as regards the indiscriminate imposition of levies he considered extortionist, wrote to the association to withdraw his membership of the body, and notify the regulatory body of medical practitioners in Nigeria, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.

On September 20, 2021, SaharaReporters reported that Olusola Adeyelu had sued NMA and MDCAN over the alleged imposition of unjustifiable charges on medical practitioners. It was reported that he also sought a court order declaring NMA membership as voluntary and that he has the right to resign his membership from the association and still practise as a medical doctor.

However, in 2020, upon payment for the renewal of his practicing licence, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria insisted that the payment of the Nigerian Medical Association’s building levy was compulsory for all doctors in Nigeria before practising licence could be renewed and indeed made it a precondition for the mandatory renewal of the practising license for the year and without any legal justification.

The MDCAN had indirectly saddled itself with the duty to serve as a levy collection agent on behalf of the NMA, of the building levy prescribed by the NMA which formed one of the reasons Adeyelu resigned his membership from the association to stop paying such levies.

Consequent upon that, he went to court to challenge the imposition and in 2020, through his counsel, Tope Temokun, filed an action by way of originating summons before the Federal High Court Abuja in suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/1094/2020 (Dr Olusola Adeyelu Vs Medical and Dental Council Of Nigeria and Nigerian Medical Association), praying the Court, among other things, a declaration that membership of the NMA is voluntary and that neither the NMA nor the regulatory body, MDCAN could force membership or membership obligation of the NMA on him.

The suit dated and filed on September 1, 2020, was supported by a 42-paragraph Affidavit sworn and deposed to by the Plaintiff, Dr. Adeyelu. In the suit, he formulated 10 questions for the determination of the court and sought 15 reliefs, resting his case on Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which provides, inter alia, that: “Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.”

Among the 15 reliefs sought are: “A DECLARATION that based on the facts and circumstances of this case, Section 14(4) of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act Cap M8, Laws of Federation of Nigeria, 2004 (as amended), by practical application and/or implication, do rob the plaintiff of his right to freedom of association and as such, inconsistent with Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and to the extent of such inconsistency therefore, unconstitutional, null and void?

“A DECLARATION that based on the facts and circumstances of this case, the 1st defendant’s imposition of the 2nd defendant’s financial resolution and/or the 2nd defendant’s association subscription and/or the 2nd defendant’s building levies or other levies on the plaintiff is in contravention of the plaintiff’s right to freedom of association and as such, inconsistent with Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and to the extent of such inconsistency therefore, unconstitutional, null and void?

“A DECLARATION that membership of the 2nd defendant as an association registered under the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) as incorporated trustees is not mandatory under the law?

“A DECLARATION that by Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the plaintiff is entitled to freely and voluntarily associate with or dissociate from the 2nd defendant?

“A DECLARATION that based on the facts and circumstances of this case, the 2nd defendant does not have the powers to impose or continue to impose or enforce its financial resolution and/or its association subscription and/or its building levies or other levies on the plaintiff?

“A DECLARATION that based on the facts and circumstances of this case, the 2nd defendant does not have the powers to impose or continue to impose or enforce its financial resolution and/or its association subscription and/or its building levies or other levies on the plaintiff having resigned his membership of the 2nd defendant?

“A DECLARATION that the 1st defendant’s statutory mandate and duty do not extend to cover the enforcement of the 2nd defendant’s financial resolutions or collecting the 2nd defendant’s building levies or any other levies on behalf of the 2nd defendant?

“A DECLARATION that based on the facts and circumstances of this case the 1st defendant’s imposition of the 2nd defendant’s financial resolution on the plaintiff and/or collection of the 2nd defendant’s association subscription and/or the 2nd defendant’s building levies or other levies on behalf of the 2nd defendant is ultra vires the 1st defendant and as such illegal?

“A DECLARATION that the 1st defendant does not have the powers to impose or continue to impose or enforce the 2nd defendant’s financial resolution and/or 2nd defendant’s association subscription and/or 2nd defendant’s building levies or other levies on the plaintiff.

“A DECLARATION that the 1st defendant does not have the powers to impose or continue to impose or enforce the 2nd defendant’s financial resolution and/or 2nd defendant’s association subscription and/or 2nd defendant’s building levies or other levies on the plaintiff having resigned his membership of the 2nd defendant?

“AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining the 2nd defendant henceforth from further imposing on the plaintiff its membership and/or its membership obligations and/or its subscription and/or its building levies or other levies, either directly or through the 1st defendant.

“AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st defendant from further subjecting the plaintiff to the 2nd defendant’s membership and/or mandatory payment of the 2nd defendant’s association subscription and/or the 2nd defendant’s building levies or other levies before recognizing or according to the plaintiff his rights and privileges as a medical practitioner in Nigeria.

“AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st defendant from further remitting to the 2nd defendant 70% of the plaintiff’s mandatory annual practicing fees having ceased to be a member of the 2nd defendant.

“AN ORDER of mandatory injunction directing and/or mandating the 1st defendant to henceforth, within one month of the payment of the plaintiff’s annual practicing fees, remit 70% of the plaintiff’s mandatory annual practicing fees to the plaintiff having ceased to be a member of the 2nd defendant.”

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