Friday, October 7, 2022

We’re waiting for our lawyers advice to obey court’s resumption order: ASUU

The National Industrial Court of Nigeria ordered ASUU not to take part in further strike, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

• September 22, 2022
ASUU president Emmanuel Osodeke
ASUU president Emmanuel Osodeke

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) says it is waiting for its lawyers for professional advice, following the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) order restraining it from continuing with strike.

President of ASUU, Emmanuel Osodeke, disclosed this in an interview on Wednesday in Abuja.

The union had embarked on the industrial action to press home improved academic environment and welfare of members.

Some of the lecturers’ demands are funding of the Revitalisation of Public Universities, Earned Academic Allowances, University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) and promotion arrears.

Others are the renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU-FG Agreement and the inconsistency in Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System.

The strike has entered its seventh month. The federal government instituted a suit before the court to halt it to enable students to resume.

This followed the failure of the government and the union to reach workable agreements.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) have embarked on protests, blocking major roads and threatening to block entrance to the International Airport Lagos if the demands were not met by government.

The NICN granted the order pending the determination of the substantive suit before the court, at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Employment, pursuant to his powers, as provided in Section 17 of the Trade Dispute Act, 2004, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

Ruling on the application brought by the federal government, the applicant/claimant, Justice Polycarp Hamman held that since the issues in dispute have been referred to the court, ordered ASUU (the defendants) not to take part in any further strike, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

According to Justice Hamman, the argument of Femi Falana, counsel to the defendants that the act of the applicants had been concluded is of no moment and flies in the face of Exhibit 2 dated August 29, 2022.

Mr Hamman maintained that workers cannot go on strike when relevant sections of the TDA have been complied with by the Minister of Labour in conciliating a labour dispute.

He praised the minister for acting in national interest by referring the matter to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.

While noting that the balance of convenience is crucial to determining an application for interlocutory injunction, Mr Hamman stated that the balance of convenience tilts in favour of the claimants who own the universities and take into consideration the interest of the students, whose parents cannot afford private universities in Nigeria or abroad.

He insisted that the strike inflicted irreparable damage to public university education in the country, lamenting that university students have been out of school for eight months in a country where age is considered for employment and enrollment into the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Nigerian Army, Air Force, Navy and and paramilitary organisations.

Justice Hamman dismissed the claim by counsel to ASUU that the strike was prompted by serial breach of agreement by the federal government, saying since the matter has been referred to the Industrial Court, the defendants are mandated by the law not to engage in any further strike, pending the determination of the substantive matter.

Justice Hamman further held that the rephrase by Mr Falana that the court should grant accelerated hearing of the application in place of injunctive relief “is of no moment”, going by the rules of the court.

He maintained that the applicants met the requirements for granting of an injunction, contrary to the objections of Mr Falana.

Reacting, lead counsel to the federal government, James U.K. Igwe, said: “I thank his Lordship for the ruling, rendered with unparalleled erudition, scholarly analysis and research and which took into cognisance of education as being basic to education in Nigeria.”

(NAN)

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