The National Industrial Court (NIC) who had her sitting in Abuja on Friday declined the hearing of an application from the Federal Government which was filed for an order to ask members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to immediately suspend its ongoing strike action.
The Industrial Court, in a ruling by Justice Polycarp Hamman, refused to hear the application, after hearing from the counsel to ASUU, Mr Femi Falana, SAN.
Lawyer of the Federal Government, Mr. James Igwe had at the resumed proceedings in the matter on Friday, attempted to plead the court to hear the claimants’ interlocutory application for an injunction against ASUU.
He told the court that the matter was not only urgent but of great national interest as millions of students have been at home since February 14.
“Section 47 of the Trade Dispute Act gives your lordship the power to direct that no worker should continue to embark on strike pending when the applications are heard and determined,” he argued.
He urged the court to order the ASUU to in the interim, return to the classroom, pending the determination of the suit.
However, counsel for ASUU, Mr Falana, SAN, opposed the application on the premise that the case was originally slated for further mention. He contended that since the case was for the mention, FG’s application could not be heard for such injunctive order to be issued.
Besides, Falana, SAN, told the court that his clients were in the process of meeting with relevant stakeholders, including members of the House of Representatives on September 20, to find a way to settle the thorny issues. “We are going out of our way to ensure that this matter is resolved and we appeal to the claimant to cooperate with us,” Falana added.
In his ruling, Justice Hamman agreed with ASUU that FG’s application could not be taken at this stage of the proceedings. “The matter is for further mention which means a hearing cannot take place,” the judge ruled.
He, however, noted that the application for an injunction, which was accompanied by an affidavit of urgency, would be heard first at the next sitting.
On his part, counsel for the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, drew the attention of the court to an application his client filed to be joined as an interested party in the matter.
Adegboruwa, SAN, further noted that his client also applied for the suit and a similar one it filed to compel FG to honour the agreement it entered into with the striking varsity lecturers, in 2009, to be consolidated in the interest of justice.