By Peace O. Aboje
A National Industrial Court in Abuja has directed the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to end its over seven months old nationwide strike which began on February 14, 2022.
Justice Polycarp Hamman, in a ruling on Wednesday, 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.
Justice Hamman held that it was necessary to end the strike because the students have a right to education.
The suit which was filed in the court by the federal government through the Minister of Labour and Employment prayed for the order for ASUU to call off its seven months strike.
Mr J. U. K Igwe, SAN, counsel to the federal government, in his submission had told the court that the application for the injunction was dated September 12 and filed same date.
He added that the application was brought pursuant to the rules of the NICN 2017 proceeding.
Igwe further stated that it was predicated on 11 grounds, supported by a 21-paragraph affidavit deposed to by 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 by saying that going by the provisions 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, and urged the court to grant the injunction.
Mr Femi Falana SAN, counsel to the defendant, 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 were eight exhibits accompanied by a written address and proceeded to adopt same as their argument in opposition to the interlocutory injunction.
Falana further argued 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 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 no 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. He finally urged the court to dismiss the application or direct parties to the IAP.