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FG drags ASUU to Court, case adjourns till Friday for hearing
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FG drags ASUU to Court, case adjourns till Friday for hearing 

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The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), on Monday, adjourned the suit brought before it by the Federal Government challenging the ongoing strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) till September 16, 2022 for further mention.

When the matter came up Monday, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), appealed to the court presided over by Justice Polycarp Hamman to be joined in the suit as an interested party.

Counsel to SERAP, Ebun-Olu Adegnoruwa (SAN), told the court that his client had filed a similar suit asking the court to compel the Federal Government to honour its 2009 agreement with the striking University lecturers.

He said, “We filed a similar suit on September 8, 2022 asking the court to compel the Federal Government to honour an agreement it willingly entered into with ASUU” and based SERAP’s joinder request on the need to forestall duplicity of outcomes concerning the industrial dispute.

But the counsel representing the Federal Government in the suit, Tijjani Gazali (SAN) opposed Adegboruwa’s application, on behalf of SERAP to consolidate the suits, saying that, “SERAP’s application was premature as the case was billed for mention on Monday.”

Reacting to the arguments by counsel to SERAP and the Federal Government, counsel to ASUU, Femi Falana (SAN), said he was aware of efforts by the lawyers to file court papers in the suit on Monday.

Meanwhile, Justice Hamman, in his ruling on the SERAP’s joinder application, agreed with the Federal Government that the suit was not ripe for consolidation.

He said, he was only presiding as a vacation judge as the case would be assigned to another judge for adjudication after the annual vacation of the court, ordered parties in the suit to file and exchange court documents and adjourned the case till Friday, September 16, 2022.

Speaking to newsmen after the court proceedings, Falana said the Nigerian government often adopts “dilatory tactics that have a way of prolonging strikes.”

Falana in company of ASUU president, Emmanuel Osodeke and other officials of the striking lecturers, referenced the resident doctors’ dispute with the government last year which resulted in a suit at the industrial court.

“This is not the first time the government have adopted this rather dilatory tactics that have a way of prolonging strike. We were here last year when you have the resident doctors strike, it was the same approach.”

 

On his part, Adegboruwa told journalists that the Federal government had abdicated its responsibility of funding public universities, necessitating the filing of SERAP’s suit.

The Federal Government had dragged the union before the Court to look into the legality or otherwise of the ongoing prolonged strike by ASUU leadership and members and to also, 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.

In the suit dated September 8, FG is praying the court to, among other reliefs, determine whether ASUU members are entitled to emoluments or ‘strike pay’ during their period of strike, which commenced on February 14, 2022, more so in view of the national law as provided in Section 43 of the TDA and the International Labour Principles on the right to strike as well as the decisions of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association on the subject.

“Determine whether ASUU has the right to embark on strike over disputes as is the case in this instance by compelling the Federal Government to employ its own University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) in the payment of the wages of its members as against the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) universally used by the Federal Government in the nation for payment of wages of all its employees in the Federal Government Public Service of which university workers, including ASUU members, are part of or even where the government, via NITDA, subjected ASUU and their counterpart, Universities Peculiar Personnel Payroll Systems (UPPPS) software to integrity test (vulnerability and stress test) and they failed.”

It would be recalled that ASUU embarked on an initial four weeks strike on February 14, and has continued to extend it as talks with the government fail. On August 29, ASUU announced an indefinite extension of the strike, accusing the government of insincerity.

 

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