CEM REPORT | The suit against the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) by the Federal Government has been adjourned.
The suit which was filed at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), and heard on Monday was adjourned by Justice Polycarp Hamman, until Friday, 16 September for further mention as parties in the suit needed to file more processes.
At Monday’s proceedings, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), sought to join the suit as an interested party.
Recall that CEM had reported that SERAP and five undergraduates had filed a suit against President Muhammadu Buhari over what it alleged as an unlawful refusal by the Federal Government to meet the demands of ASUU.
SERAP’s lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said his client had filed a similar suit asking the court to compel the federal government to honour its 2009 agreement with the striking varsity lecturers.
“We filed a similar suit on 8 September, asking the court to compel the federal government to honour an agreement it willingly entered into with ASUU.”
He based SERAP’s joinder request on the need to forestall duplicity of outcomes concerning the industrial dispute.
But the federal government’s lawyer, Tijjani Gazali, opposed Adegboruwa’s application to consolidate the suits.
He told the judge that SERAP’s application was “premature” as the case was billed for mention on Monday.
Reacting to Adegboruwa and Gazali’s arguments, Femi Falana, who represents ASUU, said he was aware of efforts by the lawyers to file court papers in the suit on Monday.
After all arguments the presiding judge agreed with the federal government that the suit was not ripe for consolidation.
Hamman added that he was only presiding as a vacation judge noting that the case would be assigned to another judge for full adjudication.
Thereafter, the judge ordered parties in the suit to file and exchange their written submissions, and adjourned the case until Friday, 16 September.
Addressing journalists shortly after Monday’s proceedings, Falana said the Nigerian government often adopts “dilatory tactics that have a way of prolonging strikes.”
Falana, in company with ASUU president, Emmanuel Osodeke, and other officials of the striking lecturers, referenced the resident doctors’ dispute with the government last year which resulted in a suit at the NICN.
“They government is yet to put its house in order. The government has not been able to make a case for the intervention of the court, hence the basis of adjournment.
“This is not the first time the government has adopted this rather dilatory tactics that have a way of prolonging strike.
“We were here last year when you had the resident doctors strike. It was the same approach. They (government) said they (resident doctors) won’t be paid, but at the end of the day, government had to pay them. And that is what happens all the time.”
On his part, Adegboruwa told journalists that the federal government had abdicated its responsibility of funding public universities, necessitating the filing of SERAP’s suit.
CEM had earlier reported the federal government sued ASUU over the lingering strike that kept Nigerian public universities shut since February.
The Nigerian government said in the suit that it wants the court to determine the legality or otherwise of the strike.
It further said; “It asked the court to interpret in its entirety the provisions of Section 18 LFN 2004, especially as it applies to the cessation of strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour and Employment and conciliation is ongoing.”
The ministry also wants the court to determine whether ASUU members are entitled to emoluments for the period they have been on strike.