Industrial Court orders ASUU to return to work
Justice Polycarp Hamman of the National Industrial Court, Abuja on Wednesday ordered the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call off its strike and go back to work.
Recall that the federal government had dragged the union before the court praying it (court) to issue an order to ASUU to suspend the seven-month-old strike.
According to Vanguard, the minister of labour and employment, Dr Chris Ngige, who sued the union on behalf of the government filed the matter before the court by way of referral to resolve the issue of the ongoing strike by ASUU.
In his submission, counsel for the government Mr. J.U.K Igwe had informed the court that the application for the injunction was dated Sept. 12 and filed same date.
He added that the application was brought in pursuant to the rules of the NICN 2017 proceeding.
Igwe further stated that it was predicated on 11 grounds, supported by 21 paragraph affidavit deposed to Mr. Okechukwu Wampa, a legal adviser in the ministry of labour and employment, attached with three exhibits and an undertaking as to damages deposed to by Wampa.
He also urged the court to grant the prayer sought and proceeded to adopt in its entirety and totality the written address, adding that the claimants had met all the requirements to enable the court grant the injunction
He cited that claimant’s action was not apprehensive and regarding damages, he said the lost time of seven months of the strike could not be regained.
He concluded that going by the provision of section 18 (1) (e) of the Trade Disputes Act 2004, that a worker should not embark on strike when a matter is already before the court, urged the court to grant the injunction.
Counsel for the defendant, Mr. Femi Falana, stated that he had before the court a nine paragraph counter-affidavit filed on September 16 deposed to by the president of ASUU
He further submitted that attached to the affidavit was eight exhibits accompanied by a written address and proceeded to adopt same as their argument in opposition to the interlocutory injunction.
Falana, in addition, contended that the minister lacked the power to order the court in the referral to direct ASUU to call off its strike.
He averred further that once a referral was before a court, no party could go outside of it.
Falana in his argument also pointed out that the claimants did not follow due process in part 1 of TDA 2004 that stipulated that only an individual has the right to approach the court as a trade union will first need to go to Industrial Arbitration Panel ( IAP), before coming to the court.
He said union can only approach the NICN to appeal the decision of IAP
Falana also said that the letter that accompanied the referral had the name of the attorney general as a party in the suit, but that however, the application filed before the court was without the name.
He also said that the referral asking for accelerated hearing was not necessary as there was not urgency in the matter as the strike had lasted for seven months
He also submitted that the balance of convenience was not on the side of the claimants and that the conducts of the claimants in the prayer for the court to interpret the 2009 Agreement should be discountenanced.
Finally, he urged the court to dismiss the application or direct parties to the IAP.
In his ruling, Hamman said he was invoking Section 18 of Trade Dispute Act, which allows the court to order an end to strike when national interest is at stake.
The judge held that it was necessary to end the strike because the students have a right to education.
He also dismissed Falana’s argument that the interlocutory injunction should be dismissed and the court should instead grant an accelerated hearing for the referral earlier filed by Ngige