The National Industrial Court, Abuja, on Monday adjourned the Federal Government’s suit against the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) until Friday, September 16.
Persecondnews reports that the suit filed against the university teachers on behalf of the government by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, was adjourned for the consolidation of the two suits on the stalemated negotiation between FG and ASUU before the court.
On getting the wind that the government had filed a suit against ASUU last week, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and some university students had filed a suit on the same matter at the same court.
In the government’s suit, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, is joined as a claimant while ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, is the sole defendant which is due to be adjudicated on by Justice Polycarp Hamman on Friday.
After the seven-month long strike which has shut down the nation’s public universities, the government finally approached the court to resolve the labour crisis and order ASUU to resume work for violating extant labour laws.
SERAP’s lawyer and human rights activist, Mr Ebun Olu-Adegoruwa (SAN) told the court that he was representing the organization and that he had filed a suit on the same subject matter before the same court with SERAP as the claimant while the Federal Government is the defendant.
He asked for the court’s leave to bring up an application to consolidate the extant suit and that SERAP be joined in the suit as a defendant, instead of multiple suits.
Also addressing the court, counsel to the claimant, Mr T.A Gazali (SAN) said the application was “premature’’, adding that there is no need for SERAP to pray to be joined in a suit orally in a matter that did not have its name on the cause list.
Counsel to ASUU, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) also told the court that both counsel had informed him on Monday that they were both filing some papers.
Urging the court to step down the matter, he said it would enable both counsel to file their papers and then return at a later date after which he would have responded to the claimant’s process.
Replying, Gazali said his process would be filed today (Monday) and Falana said he would need three days to file a reply.
In his ruling, the judge adjourned the case until Friday (September 16) for further mention and directed that the claimant should file, serve his process, and the defendant to also file and serve his response before the date of adjournment.
Justice Hamman ruled that SERAP’s application being joined in the suit was premature.
The suit filed by the claimant is also seeking the court to give the matter an accelerated hearing in order to bring the dispute to an end.
The claimant also in the instrument of referral, is urging the court to among others: “Inquire into the legality or otherwise of the on-going prolonged strike by ASUU leadership and members which had continued even after apprehension by the Minister of Labour and Employment.
“Interpret in its entirety the provisions of Section 18, LFN 2004 especially as it applies to cessation of strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour end Employment and conciliation is on-going”.