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Appeal Court to rule today as FG, ASUU fail to reach out-of-court settlement 

By Ameh Ochojila (Abuja) and Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan)
07 October 2022   |   4:15 am
Hopes of an end to the protracted strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), were deferred as the lawyers for the Federal Government and ASUU, yesterday, told the Court of Appeal

[FILES] ASUU and FG on negotiation table

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Hopes of an end to the protracted strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), were deferred as the lawyers for the Federal Government and ASUU, yesterday, told the Court of Appeal that both parties could not resolve issues around the eight months strike, despite the out-of-court settlement as advised by the Appellate Court.

Also, the expected meeting of President Muhammadu Buhari with the leadership of the House of Representatives earlier scheduled for yesterday to look into the House’s recommendations on ending the strike did not hold.

On Tuesday, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, led lawmakers to the State House to present its report after its series of engagements with ASUU.

Receiving the report, the President promised to look at the recommendations and take a final decision in Thursday’s meeting with the House leadership. The meeting, however, failed to hold after the President’s return to the Villa from an official function in Kaduna State.

At the court yesterday, FG’s lawyer, James Igwe (SAN), and lead counsel to ASUU, Femi Falana (SAN), told the Court of Appeal that despite the admonition, they could not resolve the dispute.

The presiding judge, Justice Hamma Barka, thereafter, stepped down the matter for an hour to enable Falana to file a reply to the counter affidavit deposed to by the FG in opposition to the hearing of the appeal.

At the resumption of the hearing, Falana said they had begun consultations, which would continue at the end of the day’s proceedings. He suggested that their application challenging the ruling of the Industrial Court be heard by the three-man panel of the Appeal Court.

Both parties agreed that the court should hear the application, as there was no amicable resolution reached as advised by the court.

The Court of Appeal will today, October 7, deliver a ruling in ASUU’s application seeking permission to appeal against the Industrial Court order. The industrial court had on September 21, granted interlocutory order in favour of the Federal Government, ordering the university lecturers to resume work pending the resolution of their dispute with the government.

Dissatisfied with the lower court’s order, ASUU filed an application at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, seeking the leave of court to file an appeal against the industrial court order. Falana claimed that it is the right of his client to file an appeal against the interlocutory injunction because it is against them.

The senior lawyer informed the three-man panel of the court to reject government opposition against the application, adding that it will amount to a dangerous decision for his client to be denied the right of appeal.

The Federal Government’s lawyer, Igwe drew the attention of the court to the fact that the Industrial Court order made on September 21, has not been obeyed by the lecturers to date. The senior lawyer argued that ASUU, having been in contempt of court, cannot come before the Court of Appeal with unclean hands to ask for a favour or attention of the court.

Igwe, therefore, prayed the Court of Appeal to dismiss the request of ASUU for leave to appeal against the Industrial Court order that has not been obeyed.

Justice Barka Hamma, after taking arguments from the two parties, announced that the ruling of the court will be delivered today.

MEANWHILE, ASUU is set to sue FG over the registration of the Congress of Nigerian Universities Academics (CONUA) and the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA).

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had on Tuesday, presented certificates of registration to CONUA and NAMDA. Ngige, who spoke, while presenting certificates of registration to the two unions, explained that the two bodies will exist alongside ASUU.

Falana, in reaction, said the union would sue the Federal Government over the registration of the two unions.

The National Association of University Students (NAUS), yesterday, urged labour centres in the country and Nigerians to rise to the occasion and prevent the Federal Government from getting away with breaking the ranks of ASUU.

In a statement in Ibadan signed by Adesoji Oladimeji, NAUS Vice President, Southwest, the Southwest zone of NAUS said it was tragic that the approach of government towards resolving the malaise is frivolous.

‘’We expect all labour, trade unions and the general populace to show solidarity and support to ASUU at this junction. If the Minister of Labour successfully breaks ASUU, then he would surely use this same playbook for all other bodies.”

Yesterday, Ngige pleaded with the former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and National Chairman of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Prof. Attiru Jega, to stand on the truth and not play politics with the face-off between the Federal Government and ASUU in the union’s protracted strike.

In a statement in Abuja by his media office, Ngige advised Jega, who once led ASUU that “trade unionism must exist for the good of the unions, their members, just as it must lead the vanguard of the public good. It must protect the nation and its people just as it shelters union members.

“It is not a social club for academics to act to the detriment of the nation. This is the piece of advice we thought Jega would avail his former comrades from his presumed deep mine of experience and now a trustee and adviser to ASUU.”

The statement faulted Jega’s claims during a recent television interview that the Minister of Labour turned the ASUU strike into a personal quarrel, as all his actions as chief conciliator of disputes, especially as they relate to the ASUU strike fall within the ambit of the law.  

“We have no apologies that today, three unions exist for academics: CONUA, NAMDA and ASUU in the Nigerian universities. More applications are being processed for others. It is left for lecturers to choose which one they want to belong to – a social club for strikers or the one that will use the position to promote education and the future of the Nigerian child. This is democracy untrammeled.”

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