Court postpones FG’s lawsuit against striking uni. professors

by Chimamanda
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The National Industrial Tribunal of Nigeria (NICN), a Court laden with the responsibility for settling labor disputes on Monday, adjourned the lawsuit filed by the federal government challenging the ongoing strike of the Union of Academic Staff of Universities (ASUU).

The judge, PI Hamman, adjourned the lawsuit until September 16 to receive further subpoenas.

In Monday’s proceedings, the Socioeconomic Rights and Accountability Project (Serap), sought to join the lawsuit as an interested party.

SERAP’s lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said his client had filed a similar lawsuit asking the court to force the federal government to honor its 2009 agreement with the striking university professors.

“We filed a similar lawsuit on September 8, asking the court to compel the federal government to honor an agreement it voluntarily entered into with ASUU,” Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate for Nigeria (SAN), said on Monday.

He based SERAP’s accumulation request on the need to prevent the duplication of results in relation to the labor dispute.

But the federal government’s lawyer, Tijjani Gazali, also a SAN, opposed Adegboruwa’s request to consolidate the claims.

He told the judge that SERAP’s request was “premature” since the case was brought up on Monday.

Human rights activist, Femi Falana

Reacting to Messrs. Adegboruwa and Gazali’s arguments, Femi Falana, another SAN, who represents ASUU, said he was aware of the lawyers’ efforts to file court documents in the lawsuit on Monday.

Decision

In his ruling on the SERAP consolidation request, the judge agreed with the federal government that the claim was not ripe for consolidation.

Hamman said he would only be presiding as a vacation judge, as the case would be assigned to another judge for full adjudication.

Subsequently, the judge ordered the parties to the lawsuit to file and exchange their briefs and adjourned the case until Friday, September 16.

‘The Government Demand Delay Tactic

Addressing reporters shortly after Monday’s proceedings, Falana said the Nigerian government often adopts “delaying tactics that have a way of prolonging strikes.”

Mr. Falana, joined by ASUU President Emmanuel Osodeke and other officials from the striking lecturers, addressed the resident physicians’ dispute with the government last year, which resulted in a lawsuit at the NICN.

ASUU President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke

“The government has not yet put its house in order. The government has been unable to justify the court’s intervention, hence the basis for the postponement.

“This is not the first time that the government has adopted these rather delaying tactics that have a way of prolonging the strike.

“We were here last year when there was the resident doctors’ strike. It was the same approach. They (the government) said that they (the medical residents) will not be paid, but at the end of the day, the government had to pay them. And that’s what happens all the time.”

For his part, Mr. Adegboruwa told reporters that the federal government had abdicated its responsibility to fund public universities, forcing SERAP to sue.

Background

The federal government has sued ASUU over the prolonged strike that has kept public universities in Nigeria closed since February.

The Nigerian government said in the lawsuit that it wants the court to determine whether or not the strike is legal.

He further said; “He asked the court to fully interpret the provisions of article 18 LFN 2004, especially as it relates to the cessation of a strike once the Minister of Labor and Employment apprehends a commercial dispute and conciliation is underway.”

The ministry also wants the court to determine whether ASUU members are entitled to pay for the period they have been on strike.

ASUU embarked on an initial four-week strike on February 14 and has continued to extend it as talks with the government break down.

On August 29, ASUU announced an indefinite extension of the strike, accusing the government of insincerity.

Unlike other university unions, ASUU refused the government’s request to resume while the government worked on its demands.

The Universities and Other Associated Institutions Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have called off the strike but have given an ultimatum to the government to comply with your requests.

But the Nigerian government has said it wants the court to rule on whether or not to strike.

“He asked the court to fully interpret the provisions of article 18 LFN 2004, especially as it applies to the cessation of a strike once the Minister of Labor and Employment apprehends a commercial dispute and conciliation is in progress,” a statement from the Ministry of Labor said on Sunday.

The government “sought an order from the Court for ASUU members to resume work at their various universities while the NICN addresses the issues in dispute consistent with the provisions of Section 18 (I) (b) of the TDA Cap T8. LFN 2004,” the statement reads in part.

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