Strike: FG may take out-of-court settlement into consideration with ASUU

The Federal Government may take into account an out-of-court settlement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities after bringing the union before the National Industrial Court, a trustworthy source has confirmed.ASUU’s president, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, announced the union’s seven-month strike on February 14, 2022, at the University of Lagos. The government’s refusal to uphold earlier agreements negotiated with the union, according to the union, forced it to go on strike.The union has made a number of demands, some of which are the release of funds for university revitalization, payment of lecturers’ earned allowances, implementation of the University Transparency Accountability System as the platform for university lecturers’ payment, and renegotiation of the ASUU-FG 2009 agreement.The government had formed a commission under the leadership of Emeritus Professor Nimi-Briggs to lead the government’s negotiating team in an effort to end the strike and other contentious matters.During a news conference, the minister of education, Adamu Adamu, stated that the strike was being held up by the government’s refusal to agree to pay the teachers’ salaries for the six months they had spent at home. According to him, ASUU requested that professors be paid for the time they were on strike.But Chris Ngige, the minister of Labour and employment, took the striking university professors to court.Ngige requested that the case be heard quickly in order to settle the conflict between the union and the government in a letter dated September 8 and written to the Chief Registrar of the Industrial Court.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.OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT POSSIBLEMeanwhile, a source in the Ministry of Labour and Employment who spoke with one of our correspondents in strict confidence on Thursday 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.”SUIT CONTINUES MONDAYThe National Industrial Court on Friday adjourned till Monday, September 19, hearing in the suit filed by the Federal Government challenging the ongoing strike by ASUU.At the resumed sitting on Friday, counsel for the Federal Government, James Igwe (SAN), asked the court to give the suit an accelerated hearing due to the urgency of the matter to enable the students to return to school.He requested the court to direct ASUU to resume work pending the determination of the suit. But the counsel for ASUU, Femi Falana (SAN), opposed the request, stating that it would amount to determining the substantive suit.Igwe told the court that since the matter was already in court, it would be proper for the strike to be called off pending the determination of the suit.Counsel for ASUU, Femi Falana (SAN), argued that the matter was adjourned to Friday for further mention and not for hearing. He said he had been served with the Federal Government’s motion for interlocutory injunction.The judge said it was the issue for determination and therefore could not be resolved before hearing.Meanwhile, the application brought by the Socio-Economic Rights And Accountability Project seeking to be joined in the suit was not heard as the counsel filed another application which was only served yesterday on the party.SERAP’s lawyer prayed the court to withdraw the earlier application and substitute the same with the current one. The court subsequently struck out the earlier application.The lawyer also argued that for the sake of justice, his application should be heard before entertaining other matters related to the suit.On his part, Falana agreed that in the interest of justice and clarity, it would be proper to hear the application brought by SERAP pertaining to the same matter before the determination of other issues.Falana added that ASUU was currently meeting with stakeholders to ensure that the lingering crisis was resolved. He appealed to the Federal Government to cooperate with the union to resolve the issue.In response, counsel for the Federal Government contended that SERAP’s application was not ripe for hearing because he had not been served with the relevant papers.Hamman subsequently adjourned the suit to Monday, September 19, 2022 for hearing. In his ruling, he said SERAP’s application was not yet ripe for hearing since it was only served on parties on Thursday through the ministry of justice.BUHARI MEETS BRIGGSThe President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Friday promised to engage in further consultations with relevant stakeholders towards ending the seven months old strike.According to a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, the President told the chairman and some pro-chancellors of federal universities at the State House in Abuja, “I will make further consultations and I’ll get back to you.”The statement was titled ‘ASUU strike: President Buhari meets with pro-chancellors of varsities, promises further consultations’.The President said without necessarily going back on the already established policy, he would make further consultations and revert to them.The pro-chancellors were led to the meeting by Prof Nimi Briggs, who said they met with the President in three capacities: “As president and commander-in-chief, as father of the nation, and as visitor to the federal universities.”Citing the recent listing of the University of Ibadan among the first 1,000 universities in the world, Briggs noted that “the future of the university system in the country is good,” despite the seven-month industrial action.Briggs commended the Federal Government for concessions already made to the striking lecturers, including the offer to raise lecturers’ salaries by 23.5 per cent, and 35 per cent increase for professors.He, however, asked for “further inching up of the salary, in view of the economic situation of the country.”The pro-chancellors also asked that the No-Work, No-Pay stance of government should be reviewed, as he promised that lecturers would make up for time lost as soon as an amicable situation was reached, and schools reopened.The Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Opiah, said all the concessions made by the Federal Government were to ensure that the industrial action came to an end, but that ASUU had remained adamant.NANS IN COURTThe factional President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Umar Faruk Lawal, has sued some ministers and striking university lecturers over the industrial action.In his suit before the National Industrial Court in Abuja, a copy of which was made available to our correspondent, Lawal noted that the court had summoned ASUU executives, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of Education and that the court ordered them to appear within 14 days.The document partly reads, “You are hereby commanded that within 14 days after service of this complaint on you, inclusive of the day of such service, you do cause an appearance to be entered for you in a suit by Umar Faruk Lawal (President, National Association of Nigerian Students) of Department of Library Science, Bayero University Kano, Nigeria.”

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