Court declares NMA membership voluntary

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A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has declared 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, as such membership of an association is voluntary.

Justice Donatus Okorowo, made the declaration while delivering a landmark judgement in a suit brought before the court by Dr. Olusola Adeyelu.

Adeyelu had dragged the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria and The Incorporated Trustees of Nigerian Medical Association, to court, on his right to freedom of association.

In 2019, Adeyelu, a specialist respiratory physician, had written to notify the regulatory body of medical practitioners in Nigeria, MDCN, of his intentions to withdraw his membership.

He stated his reasons for the lack of internal democracy in the running of the affairs of the NMA, particularly as regards the indiscriminate imposition of levies, which he considered as an extortion.

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In 2020, upon payment for the renewal of his practising licence, MDCN insisted that the payment of the Nigerian Medical Association’s building levy was compulsory for all doctors in Nigeria before the practising licence could be renewed.

The association made it a precondition for the mandatory renewal of the practising license for the year without any legal justification.

On September 20, 2021, the plaintiff sued NMA and MDCAN over what he termed the imposition of unjustifiable charges on medical practitioners.

He sought a court order declaring NMA membership as voluntary.

He also prayed to the court to declare that he has the right to resign his membership from the association and still practise as a medical doctor.

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He contended that the MDCAN has indirectly saddled itself with the duty to serve as a levy collection agent on behalf of the NMA.

Adeyelu, through his counsel, Tope Temokun, challenged the imposition of the NMA building levy as a condition for being eligible for the renewal of practising licence.

The physician filed an originating summon before the Federal High Court Abuja in a suit no marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1094/2020.

Mentioned as defendants in the suit are MDCN and NMA, as 1st to 2nd defendants respectively.

Adeyelu, among other things, prayed to the Court, for 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.

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Justice Okorowo, in his judgment, delivered May 6 and made available to newsmen on May 14, held that membership of the National Medical Association is voluntary in line with section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

The court upheld the submissions of Adeyelu, on his right to freedom of association.

The court also affirmed Adeyelu’s right to associate or dissociate from the Nigerian Medical Association.

Justice Okorowo declared that the plaintiff may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.

He held that NMA membership cannot be mandatory or imposed but rather voluntary for medical doctors in Nigeria.

PUNCH NEWSPAPER

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