Hearing in the Federal Government suit against the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been shifted to September 16 after a failed attempt by the Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to join the suit.
Meanwhile, the National Industrial Court (NIC) adjudicating over the case has ordered the parties in the suit to file and exchange their processes before the adjourned date.
Although SERAP had, through an application, sought to be joined in the litigation as an interested party, Justice P. I. Hamman, sitting in Abuja division of the court, refused to grant the application at the present stage.
The Federal Government had, last week, dragged ASUU before the NIC over the protracted industrial action that is running into seventh month.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had, in a letter addressed to the registrar of NICN, called for a referral instrument following the failure of dialogue between the union and the Federal Ministry of Education.
The court is to inquire into the legality or otherwise of the ongoing prolonged strike by ASUU leadership and members that had continued even after apprehension.
When the case was called, yesterday, SERAP’s counsel, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, informed the court of an application by his client, seeking the court’s permission to include SERAP as a party in the Federal Government suit.
Adegboruwa told Hamman that SERAP had filed a similar suit seeking to compel the Federal Government to honour its 2009 agreement with ASUU, adding that granting the joinder request would forestall duplicity of outcomes concerning the industrial dispute.
“We filed a similar suit on September 8, asking the court to compel the Federal Government to honour an agreement it willingly entered into with ASUU,” he said.
Counsel to the Federal Government, Tijjani Gazali, opposed the request on the ground that the group cannot be allowed to come in at this stage because the case of the plaintiff at yesterday’s proceedings was just for mention.
In his submission, lead counsel to the striking lecturers, Femi Falana, informed the court that he was aware of efforts by the lawyers to file court papers in the suit on Monday.
Hamman agreed with Gazali that the suit was not yet ripe for consolidation, adding that he was only presiding as a vacation judge and the case would be assigned to another judge for adjudication after vacation. He subsequently ordered the parties in the suit to file and exchange their processes and fixed Friday, September 16, for further mention of the case.
Meanwhile, some parents in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have expressed mixed reactions as the Federal Government referred the dispute with ASUU to tc Court. Some parents who spoke with newsmen, yesterday, said it was unnecessary for the Federal Government to raise a referral instrument to the NICN to settle the trade dispute, while others also blamed ASUU for the prolonged strike.
A parent, Mark Yohanna, said: “Taking ASUU to court was a waste of time at this point. The industrial court had been there, why didn’t they think of it since the beginning of the strike which had lingered for seven months. The issues that needed to be addressed are well spelt out by the striking lecturers before they can call off their strike, then why take them to court. I do not think the industrial court will address those issues, except the Federal Government will comply with the agreement entered with ASUU.
“I want to say that the government is playing with time and the future of the Nigerian children which are their responsibility to cater for their interest and welfare,” he said.
Emmanuel Ejike, another parent, said: “Going to industrial court is neither here nor there, because I do not know what the aim is or what it intends to achieve, If their intention is to order ASUU to stop the strike, then the Federal Government would have done it earlier, is it even possible that whatever the court is going to say, the union will abide by it. By going to court, I think the government wants to use it to buy time, because people are not sure if the government is ready to address the issues and ASUU wants the government to be honest about them.”
He urged that the Federal Government to find an honest way to stop the strike rather than going to court.
Also, Kemi Olusola said referring the trade dispute with ASUU to court by the Federal Government would compound the problem.
According to her, ASUU has said if the Federal Government wants to resolve the issues within a day, it has the capacity to do so.
“If government feels the education of the Nigerian children of poor parents is paramount and important to them. If they believe that human capital development is critical to the development of the nation, they should do whatever it takes to resolve the issues soonest. ASUU is saying the government has not fulfilled its promises, so they (ASUU) cannot call off the strike until there is genuine commitment. I think the government should try and see it from ASUU’s point of view, because they want to save the university system in this country,” she said.
Elizabeth Olajide, another parent, said it was commendable that the Federal Government had taken the striking lectures to court and that probably would make the issues resolved speedily.
“I think the court will do justice to the issues in contention. I am pained about this prolong strike and I pray the court will resolve the dispute between the parties as quickly as possible,” John Osita, another parent, said.
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