Strike: Obey court ruling first, negotiation will continue – FG tells ASUU

The federal government has advised the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), to obey the National Industrial Court (NCI) ruling and call off its ongoing nationwide strike, while negotiations will continue.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, stated this while responding to the industrial court ruling which restrained ASUU from continuing with the strike when fielding questions from journalists in New York on Friday, September 24, 2022.

Recall that the NIC had on Wednesday, September 21, 2022, ordered ASUU to call off its ongoing nationwide strike, pending the determination of a suit filed by the Federal Government.

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In a bid to end the strike amid the outcry sparked by the strike which has been ongoing for over seven months, the government had taken the union to court.

The government filed an application for an interlocutory injunction, seeking an order of the court restraining ASUU from further continuing with the strike.

Delivering a ruling on the government’s application, Justice Polycarp Hamman restrained ASUU from continuing with the strike and ordered that the case file should be returned to the president of the Industrial Court for reassignment to another judge, as he is a vacation judge.

According to him, the strike is detrimental to public university students who cannot afford to attend private tertiary institutions, and the Trade Dispute Act mandates workers not to embark on strike once an issue has been referred to the industrial court.

Responding to a question on how soon ASUU will call off the strike with the ruling, the Minister of Labour said: “I’m not ASUU but the maximum in law is that when there is a court judgment or ruling or order you must first obey and then we can apply for an appeal if you so desire or apply for stay that is stay of execution.

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“So the maximum in law, jurisprudence and everything about the law, is that you obey the court’s ruling, judgment or order, no matter how bad. The qualifying thing is that no matter how bad and no matter how you disagree with it, you first obey. Like the military people say, obey before complain.

“So we expect them to get back to the classrooms but that doesn’t foreclose negotiations, the negotiations should be on as a matter of fact, it will be on officially and non officially.

“For example, the House of Representatives had invited us to come and brief them. And together, they are stakeholders. You heard Mr President said to the committee of Pro-Chancellors when they visited him, that he would do consultation as per the two request on putting an icing on the cake on the government offer to ASUU members and the issue of resettlement fund to cushion the effect of the “no work no pay” situation they found themselves in.

“So, President will look at it, the House of Reps are stakeholders, Ministers we are not only stakeholders, we are advisers to Mr. President by the provisions of the Constitution, Section 5 of the Constitution and 147, that appoints ministers one from each state of the Federation, and we hold regular meetings with him, so we are his chief advisers.

“So, we will interface with the House of Representatives and all of us collectively will advise Mr. President,” Ngige said.

Meanwhile, ASUU has filed an appeal challenging the ruling of the NCI which ordered the lecturers to call off their seven-month-old strike and return to the classrooms.

Counsel for ASUU, Femi Falana, SAN, based their appeal on 14 grounds.

Among the 14 grounds for appeal filed by the union through its counsel are, “the learned trial judge erred in law and thereby occasioned a miscarriage of justice when he decided to hear and determine the respondents’ motion for interlocutory injunction when he knew or ought to have known that the substantive suit filed by the claimant was not initiated by due process of law.

“The learned trial judge erred in law and thereby occasioned a miscarriage of justice when he granted the Respondents’ application for interlocutory injunction pending the determination of the substantive suit on the basis of the incurably defective Referral filed on September 8, 2022.

“The learned trial judge erred in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice when he made an order remitting the case file backed the President of the National Industrial Court despite the order made earlier for the accelerated hearing of the substantive suit.

“The learned trial judge erred and occasioned a miscarriage of justice when he held, ‘On the requirement of the conduct of the applicants, I have seen that contrary to the submission of Falana, SAN that the Applicants have delayed in bringing the application because the strike started on the 14th of February, 2022, and that the urgency in the application is self-induced, it is obvious from exhibits ASUU 1 to ASUU 7 annexed to the counter-affidavit that parties have been negotiating in line with the requirements of the Trade Disputes Act till 1st of September, 2022 when the defendant/respondent wrote to the Chairman of the Committee of Pro-chancellors of federal universities.”

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