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Sunday 25th September 2022,
Hope for Nigeria

Court orders ASUU to suspend strike

Court orders ASUU to suspend strike

The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) in Abuja has ordered the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to suspend its seven-month-old strike.

The judge, Polycarp Hamman, gave the order on Wednesday, in a ruling on the federal government’s application for an interlocutory injunction against the ongoing ASUU strike.

The federal government’s counsel, James Igwe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had filed the application seeking the court’s order restraining ASUU from continuing with the strike pending the determination of the suit initiated through a referral by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.

Mr Hamman, in granting the order on Wednesday, dismissed ASUU’s objection to the application.

The union’s lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, had urged the court to dismiss the federal government’s application, and instead, grant an accelerated hearing of the main suit.

Why injunction was granted

Mr Hamman agreed with the government that irreparable damage was being done to the lives of students rendered idle by the ongoing strike.

He said not granting the injunction would only cause additional damage to the ambitions of young Nigerians.

He cited examples of the National Youth Service Corps and employment in Nigeria’s armed forces where age is a requirement for participation and employment.

He also said the Trade Dispute Act prohibits parties from engaging in an industrial action when disputes have been referred to the industrial court, the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) or when a conciliator has been appointed.

Mr Falana, ASUU’s lawyer, had argued that the affidavit filed by Ikechukwu Wamba, a legal officer at the Ministry of Labour and Employment in support of the application should not be admitted as the deponent was neither a member of the university community nor part of any meetings held with the union.

But the judge Hamman disagreed, saying Mr Wamba as a legal officer and a member of management at the labour ministry had access to the official documents of the negotiations as well as offering legal advice to the minister.

The judge also disagreed with Mr Falana’s submission that the government has not made necessary moves to curtail the strike since it commenced in February.

He said pieces of evidence from meetings with the government which began days after the strike until 1 September proved negotiations had been ongoing.

ASUU to explore options

However, addressing reporters after proceedings, ASUU’s counsel, Edorjeh Edo, said the union has options and will study them for further actions.

“There are quite a number of actions open to the union. We will study with the legal team and then we will adopt the most appropriate action,” he said.

Meanwhile, the President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Usman Barambu, expressed delight that the striking university lecturers had been ordered to return to class, “but on this note, we want to call on the government to fulfil its own part.”

Background

ASUU accused the federal government of reneging on a 2009 agreement on matters such as increased funding of universities and increasing lecturers’ salaries.

The union embarked on an initial four weeks strike on 14 February, demanding the government to honour the agreements it had entered with the union in 2009.

On July 19, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, took over negotiations promising to get all striking university workers back to work in the shortest possible time

While Mr Adamu’s persuasion worked on other unions, it fell flat with ASUU with the ‘No Work, No Pay’ rule introduced by the government.

ASUU, in reaction, extended its strike indefinitely on 29 August.

Following its inability to resolve the dispute with ASUU through negotiations, the federal government, through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, referred the matter to the industrial court for resolution.

The government asked the court to determine the legality or otherwise of the strike.

It also wants the court to determine whether ASUU members are entitled to emoluments for the period they have been on strike.

The Nigerian government added that it wants the court to adjudicate on the propriety or otherwise of the strike.

“It asked the court to interpret in its entirety the provisions of Section 18 LFN 2004, especially as it applies to the cessation of strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour and Employment and conciliation is ongoing.”

The government also “requested an order of the Court for ASUU members to resume work in their various universities while the issues in dispute are being addressed by the NICN in consonance with the provisions of Section 18 (I) (b) of the TDA Cap T8. LFN 2004.”

Interventions

However, while the suit was pending in court, the leadership of the House of Representatives invited ASUU for a meeting on Tuesday.

ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, described the meeting as a good development.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said he would be presenting the agreement reached with the striking university lecturers to President Muhammadu Buhari for approval.

Source

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