…Meets ASUU in Industrial Court Monday***
The Federal government on Monday urged the National Industrial Court to order the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call off its seven months strike.
Joined as a claimant in the matter is the Minster of Education, with the President of ASUU as the sole defendant.
The matter which came up before Justice Polycarp Hamman brought by Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige on behalf of the federal government, by way of referral is praying the court to order ASUU to resume academic activities, amongst other prayers.
When the matter slated for mention came up, Mr Ebunolu Adegoruwa, SAN, informed the court that he was representing Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and that he had filed a suit on the same subject matter before the same court.
He also stated that in the suit NICN/ABJ/269/2022, SERAP is the claimant with the federal government as the defendant.
He, therefore, proceeded to apply that the extant suit be consolidated and SERAP be joined in the suit as a defendant, instead of multiple suits on the same matter before the same court.
Counsel to the claimant, Mr T.A Gazali, SAN, in response said the application was premature and added that there was no need for SERAP to pray to be joined in a suit orally in a matter that did not have its name on the cause list.
Mr Femi Falana, SAN, counsel to ASUU in his response informed the court that both counsels had informed him on Monday that they both were filing some papers.
Falana in addition urged the court to step down the matter to enable both counsels to file their papers and then return at a later date after he would have responded to the claimant’s process
Adegoruwa replied that the defendant had not denied the existence of the suit SERAP filed and served on them.
Gazali on his part also informed the court that his process will be filed Monday and Falana said he would need three days to reply to the process.
The judge in his ruling adjourned the matter until Friday, for further mention.
He also directed that the claimant should file, serve his process, the defendant to also file and serve his response before the adjourned date.
Hamman in addition ruled that SERAP’s application for be joined in the suit was premature.
The newsmen report that the suit filed by the claimant is also seeking the court to give the matter an accelerated hearing in order to bring the dispute to an end.
The claimant also in the instrument of referral is praying the court to: “Inquire into the legality or otherwise of the ongoing prolonged strike by ASUU leadership and members which had continued even after apprehension by the Minister of Labour and Employment.
“Interpret in its entirety the provisions of Section 18, LFN 2004 especially as it applies to cessation of the strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour end Employment and conciliation is on-going”.
Various talks between the parties on different occasions concerning the ongoing strike had not yielded any result, hence the referral of the matter to the court.
In the meantime, the Federal Government says it will meet with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) for adjudication on Monday over the prolonged strike.
Dr Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, said this on Sunday in Abuja in a letter addressed to the Registrar of NICN, dated Sept. 8.
Ngige said this in a statement signed by Olajide Oshundun, Head, Press and Public Relations, in the ministry and made available to newsmen.
He said the referral instrument had become necessary following the failure of dialogue between the union and the Federal Ministry of Education.
He added that the matter is billed for mention by 9 a.m on Sept. 12.
”The Federal Government has asked the NICN to inquire into the legality or otherwise of the ongoing prolonged strike by ASUU leadership and members that had continued even after apprehension.
“It asked the court to interpret in its entirety the provisions of Section 18 LFN 2004, especially as it applies to the cessation of the strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour and Employment and conciliation is ongoing,” he said.
He also said that the NICN are to interpret the provisions of Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap T8. LFN 2004, titled “Special Provision with Respect to payment of wages during strikes and lock-outs”.
Ngige said this ”specifically dealing with the rights of employees/workers during the period of any strike or lock-out.
”Can ASUU or any other union that embarked on strike be asking to be paid salaries even with clear provisions of the law?
“Determine whether ASUU members are entitled to emoluments or ‘strike pay’ during their period of strike, which commenced on Feb. 14.
”Moreso, in view of our 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,” he said.
He added that NICN should determine whether ASUU had 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).
According to him, as this is universally used by the Federal Government in the nation for payment of wages of all her employees in the Federal Government Public Service of which university workers, including ASUU members, are part.
”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,” he said.
Ngigi also said the federal government further asked the court to determine the extent of fulfillment of ASUU’s demands since the 2020 Memorandum of Action (MOA) that the union signed with the government.
The minister said their demands include the funding for revitalisation of public universities as per the 2009 agreement, Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) payments, state universities proliferation and constitution of visitation panels, and release of a white paper on the report of the visitation panels.
He noted that others are the reconstitution of the government renegotiation team for renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, which was renegotiated in 2013/2014, due for renegotiation in 2018/2019, and the migration of ASUU members from IPPIS to its own UTAS, which is currently on test at NITDA.
”Consequently, the Federal Government requested for 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,” he said.