The Federal Government has allegedly considered an out-of-court settlement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Recall, that ASUU began industrial action on February 14, 2022, and has grounded academic activities in public varsities in the country for half of the year.
The union is demanding the release of revitalisation funds for universities, renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement, release of earned allowances for university lecturers, and deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
In a bid to resolve the strike and other contentious issues, the government had raised a panel led by the Emeritus Professor Nimi-Briggs to head the government’s negotiations team.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, had told State House Correspondents during a press briefing that the refusal of the government to agree to pay the lecturers’ salaries for the six months they had spent at home was stalling the strike. He said ASUU insisted that lecturers must be paid their salaries for the period they were on strike.
But the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige dragged the striking university lecturers to court.
In a letter dated September 8 and addressed to the Chief Registrar of the Industrial Court, Ngige asked that the suit be given an accelerated hearing in order to resolve the dispute between the union and the government.
He asked the court to interpret in its entirety the provisions of Section 18 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, especially as it applies to the cessation of strike action once a trade dispute is being resolved.
The suit which was heard initially by Justice Hamman Polycarp on Monday, September 12, 2022, was adjourned to September 16, 2022, and was again adjourned to September 19, 2022.
However, a source in the Ministry of Labour and Employment who spoke with one of our correspondents in strict confidence during the week revealed that the government might consider an out-of-court settlement should the striking lecturers call off their strike and return to work.
The source noted that the reason why the striking lecturers were dragged to court was because of their failure to return to work despite the efforts made by the government.
The source said, “We may consider an out-of-court settlement if they agree to return to work. The reason we dragged them to court initially was because they refused our pleas to return to work. We met with them several times and made moves for reconciliation but they refused. The reason for going to court is for the court to compel them to go back to work. If they agree to resume, there is no need going ahead with the suit.”
Meanwhile, some Nigerian students have continued to block major highways over the lingering strike.
The students who have been protesting since Tuesday on Friday, September 16, 2022, grounded the grounded Ijebu-Ode/Benin/Ore expressway.
Commuters and motorists were trapped in the logjam and commercial activities were grounded following the protest.
Reacting in a video, on the protest ground, one of the protesters, chanted, “End ASUU strike now! We’re tired, enough is enough!”
The chairman, NANS National Task Force on #EndASUUStrikeNow, Ojo Raymond Olumide said, “As Nigerian students, we have vowed to resist and we shall fight to a standstill. We sincerely appreciate the resilience of Nigerian students, who have joined in the first phase of the struggle so far, and we acknowledge the positive responses from our parents at the barricades. These positive responses are a motivation to continue the lined-up agitation until our demands are met.
“Conclusively, the national leadership of the association shall inform Nigerian people of the next phase of the struggle to come in the days ahead.”