CEM REPORT, EDUCATION | The Federal Government choosing to seek a court settlement to settle the rift between it and the striking lecturers in the country might have further spread the wound of the lecturers.
Ever since the National Industrial Court (NIC) of Nigeria, Abuja Division, delivered its judgment — directing the lecturers to go back to work, the struggle has shifted from the negotiating table to the courtroom.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), rejecting the NIC’s verdict promised to seek ways to get back in the fight. True to its word ASUU approached the Court of Appeal, Abuja for an order to stay the execution of a NIC’s judgement ordering it to end its ongoing nationwide strike.
ASUU in a 14-ground appeal is claiming that the ruling of NIC affects its fundamental rights to a fair hearing, adding that it would be in the interest of justice to stay the execution of the same pending the hearing and determination of the Appeal
ASUU also claims that the trial Judge “erred in law and thereby occasioned a miscarriage of justice when he decided to hear and determine the Respondents’ motion for an interlocutory injunction when he knew or ought to have known that the substantive suit filed by the Claimant was not initiated by due process of law.”
Additional, ASUU in grounds two of the appeal claims that the trial judge misdirected himself in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice when he decided to hear other motions before the motion challenging the court’s jurisdiction on the matter.
The appellant further submitted that the learned trial judge erred in law when he held that “pursuant to Section 17 of the Trade Dispute Act, Section 18(1) E mandates the members of the Defendants/Respondents not to take part in any strike pending the determination of the suit.”
Meanwhile, the federal government has said the ASUU may no longer exist as a union as it has contravened the laws that support its existence and functionalities.
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment accused the leadership of ASUU of failing to submit the annual audited account of its finances as required by law for the past five years.
The Minister Sen. Chris Ngige noted that by not submitting the audited accounts for five years running, the union has violated the provisions of Section 37(1) of the Trade Union Act (CAP TILFN 2004).
He added that owing to this ASUU risks losing its certificate of registration.
Ngige explained that the Trade Union Act requires ASUU and other registered trade unions to audit their account at least once every year and submit their audited account to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment at the office of the Registrar of Trade Unions, to indicate how they utilise the funds accruing from check off dues paid by their members.
Consequently, ASUU filed its Audited Accounts for 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021, however, the Registrar’s office has refused the accept the documents.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in a move to settle both parties has written to the Registrar of Trade Unions, pleading that it should accept and file the annual financial returns and audited accounts, presented by ASUU on September 9.
The letter signed by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, was addressed to the Registrar of Trade Unions and copied to the Minister of Labour and Employment.
The letter reads in part:
“We understand that ASUU has responded to your query to submit its Annual Financial Reports and Audited Accounts within 72 hours“ASUU responded to the query through their letter dated Sept. 9. In the letter, the union posited that it had submitted the Annual Financial Returns and Audited Accounts for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
“ASUU also averred that the union has now rendered the account for 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 as of 9th September 2022.
“All these submissions were made in less than 72 hours in compliance with your query as conveyed in your letter.
“We also understand that ASUU sent one of their staff and their external auditor to personally deliver the requested financial documents on Sept. 9.
“But their efforts to submit the documents were rebuffed by your staff who insisted that they were under instructions not to accept any document from ASUU.
“ASUU subsequently sent the requested financial documents through courier services but again the staff in your office refused to receive the Annual Financial Returns and the Audited Accounts from ASUU.”
Meanwhile, the federal government has maintained that ASUU must first obey the court judgment before appealing or seeking further resolution.
According to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, the order does not conclude negotiations.
“I’m not ASUU but the maximum in law is that when there is a court judgement or ruling or order you must first obey and then we can apply for an appeal if you so desire or apply for a stay, that is a stay of execution.
“So, the maximum in law, jurisprudence and everything about the law are that you obey the court’s ruling, judgement or order, no matter how bad.
“So, we expect them to get back to the classrooms but that doesn’t foreclose negotiations, the negotiations should be on, as a matter of fact, it will be on officially and non-officially. For example, the House of Representatives had invited us to come and brief them. And together, they are stakeholders.
“You heard President said to the committee of Pro-Chancellors, when they visited him, that he would do consultation as per the two request on putting an icing on the cake, on the government’s offer to ASUU members and the issue of resettlement fund to cushion the effect of the ‘no work no pay’ situation they found themselves.”