The National Industrial Court, NIC, sitting in Abuja, has declined to hear an application the Federal Government filed for an order to direct the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to immediately suspend its ongoing strike action.
The court, in a ruling by Justice Polycarp Hamman, refused to hear the application, after it heard from counsel to the striking varsity lecturers, Mr Femi Falana, SAN.
FG’s lawyer, Mr. James Igwe had at the resumed proceedings in the matter yesterday, attempted to persuade the court to hear the claimants’ interlocutory application for an injunction against ASUU.
He told the court that the matter was not only urgent but of great national interest as millions of students have been at home since February 14.
“Section 47 of the Trade Dispute Act gives your lordship the power to direct that no worker should continue to embark on strike pending when the applications are heard and determined,” he argued.
He urged the court to order the ASUU to in the interim, return to the classroom, pending the determination of the suit.
However, counsel for ASUU, Mr Falana, SAN, opposed the application on the premise that the case was originally slated for further mention. He contended that since the case was for the mention, FG’s application could not be heard for such injunctive order to be issued.
Besides, Falana, SAN, told the court that his clients were in the process of meeting with relevant stakeholders, including members of the House of Representatives on September 20, to find a way to settle the thorny issues. “We are going out of our way to ensure that this matter is resolved and we appeal to the claimant to cooperate with us,” Falana added.
In his ruling, Justice Hamman agreed with ASUU that FG’s application could not be taken at this stage of the proceedings. “The matter is for further mention which means a hearing cannot take place,” the judge ruled.
He, however, noted that the application for an interlocutory injunction, which was accompanied by an affidavit of urgency, would be heard first at the next sitting.
On his part, counsel for the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, drew the attention of the court to an application his client filed to be joined as an interested party in the matter.
Adegboruwa, SAN, further noted that his client also applied for the suit and a similar one it filed to compel FG to honour the agreement it entered into with the striking varsity lecturers, in 2009, to be consolidated in the interest of justice.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to make further consultations on the demands by the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
The president made the promise after meeting with the Chairman and select members of Pro-Chancellors of Federal Universities yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The President promised to engage in further consultations with relevant stakeholders, towards ending the protracted strike by university lecturers, saying: “I will make further consultations, and I’ll get back to you.”
The Pro-Chancellors were led to the meeting by Professor Nimi Briggs, who said they had come to meet with the president in three capacities: “As President and Commander-in-Chief, as the father of the nation, and as a visitor to the Federal universities.”
He said: “the future of the university system in the country is good,” citing as an example the recent listing of the University of Ibadan among the first 1,000 universities in the world, a development occurring for the first time.
Prof Briggs commended Federal Government for concessions already made to the striking lecturers, including the offer to raise salaries by 23.5 per cent across the board, and 35 per cent for Professors.
He, however, asked for “further inching up of the salary, in view of the economic situation of the country.”
The pro-chancellors also asked for a reconsideration of the No-Work, No-Pay stance of the government, promising that lecturers would make up for time lost as soon as an amicable situation was reached, and schools reopened.