CEM REPORT, EDUCATION | The National Industrial Court has fixed Wednesday 21st September to deliver its ruling on the application filed by the Federal Government (FG) seeking an order from the court to direct the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call off its ongoing strike.
At the resumed hearing counsel to FG, James Igwe 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 to grant the injunction.
In his submission, he informed the court that the application for the injunction was dated September 12 and filed on the same date.
He added that the application was brought in according to the rules of the NICN 2017 proceeding, further stating that it was predicated on 11 grounds, supported by 21 paragraph affidavit deposed to 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 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 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, the court should grant the injunction.
Femi Falana, counsel to the ASUU, argued that the minister lacked the power to order the court in the referral to direct ASUU to call off its strike.
He stated that he had before the court a nine-paragraph counter-affidavit filed on September 16 deposed 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 the same as their argument in opposition to the interlocutory injunction.
He also submitted that the balance of convenience was not on the side of the claimants and that the conduct of the claimants in the prayer for the court to interpret the 2009 Agreement should be discountenanced.
He averred further 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.
In his argument Falana, also pointed out that the claimants did not follow due process in part 1 of TDA 2004 which stipulated that only an individual has the right to approach the court as a trade union will first need to go to the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP), before coming to the court.
He also said that the referral asking for an accelerated hearing was not necessary as there was no urgency in the matter as the strike had lasted for seven months.
He finally urged the court to dismiss the application or direct parties to the IAP.
Igwe in response submitted that the minister did not order the court and that the letter attached to the referral was not a legal document as the notice of referral superseded the letter.
Justice Polycarp Hamman after listening to both arguments adjourned the matter till Wednesday to deliver judgment.
Recall that the Minister of Labour and Employment on behalf of the Federal Government had filed the matter before the court by way of referral to resolve the issue of the ongoing strike by ASUU.