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FG vs ASUU: Osodeke vows to appeal court ruling

By Olalekan Awojodu

The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Emmanuel Osodeke on Wednesday said the union will appeal the National Industrial Court ruling that ordered his members to suspend its strike action pending the determination of the suit filed by the Minister of Lab our against the union.

Osodeke spoke on Wednesday evening on Channel Television’s Politics Today. He said that the executive members of the union will meet their lawyer and determine the way forward. “There are several options open to us. The court ruling is not the last as we have a right of appeal. The Court of Appeal is there and so also is the Supreme Court. We will meet our lawyers and they will advise us on the next step”, he said.

Prof Osodeke however berated the Minister of Lab our over the suit he filed while the president and the House of Representatives have already intervened. “We have met the president who promised to look into the matter. We are only waiting for him to return from his trip. The House of Representative, that comprises of over 360 elected representatives of Nigerians have also intervened but a single person ignored all these and filed a suit in court”, he said.

Seven months after it embarked on strike actions, the National Industrial Court (NICN) sitting in Abuja ordered ASUU to suspend it’s action pending the determination of the suit before the court.

The ordered for immediate suspension was giving in a ruling by Justice Polycarp Hamman on Wednesday. The Court further restrained ASUU from continuing with the industrial action pending the determination of the suit.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, on behalf of the Nigerian Government had filed the matter before the court by way of referral to resolve the issue of the ongoing strike by ASUU.

Counsel to Nigerian government Mr James Igwe, SAN in his submission had informed the court that the application for the injunction was dated Sept. 12, 2022 and filed same date. He added that the application was brought in pursuant to the rules of the NICN 2017.

Igwe noted that it was predicated on 11 ground, 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 said, 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 to ASUU, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, stated that he had before the court a nine paragraph counter-affidavit filed on Sept. 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 argued that the minister lacked the power to order the court in the referral to direct ASUU to call off its strike. He averred that once a referral was before a court, no party could go outside of it.

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 further 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 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.

The presiding Judge held further that the case filed be returned to the president of the Industrial Court for reassignment to another judge because he is a vacation judge.

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