National Industrial Court, NIC, sitting in Abuja, has fixed December 13 for continuation of hearing on the protracted dispute between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
It will be recalled that alleged refusal by FG to comply with an agreement it earlier entered into with ASUU, which is the umbrella body of University lecturers in the country, led the union to embark on a strike action that lasted over eight months.
Based on a referral that was made to the court by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, the vacation judge, Justice Polycarp Hamman, on September 21, ordered the striking lecturers to return to the classroom, pending the determination of the suit FG entered against their union.
The interlocutory order of the Industrial Court was further reinforced by the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, which in a ruling it delivered on October 7, made it mandatory that ASUU must call off the strike action before it could be allowed to lodge an appeal to challenge the restraining order that was issued against it by the NIC.
Though ASUU had since complied with the orders, both parties, on Tuesday, returned to the NIC.
At the resumed proceedings, FG’s lawyer, Mr. James Igwe, told the court that was presided over by the NIC President, Justice Benedict Kanyip, that ASUU served him with a preliminary objection it filed to query the jurisdiction of the court to hear the substantive suit marked NICN/ABJ/270/2022.
He said the government also filed its own counter affidavit and written addresses, seeking the dismissal of ASUU’s objection to the suit.
While confirming the development, counsel to ASUU, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, who joined the proceedings virtually, said he was ready for the processes to be heard.
Likewise, the counsel that appeared for the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, Mr. Kehinde Oyewumi, notified the court that his client filed an application to be joined as an interested party in the case.
After he had listened to all the parties, Justice Kanyip, deemed all the processes as properly filed, even as he adjourned the matter to December 13 for ASUU’s preliminary objection to be heard.
Justice Kanyip also adjourned further proceedings on three other related cases, among which included a suit marked NICN/ABJ/336/2022, which ASUU filed to challenge the decision of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Ngige, to recognize two splinter unions- Congress of Nigerian University Academics, CONUA, and the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics, NAMDA.
ASUU is praying the court to withdraw the certificates of registration of the two newly registered unions.
However, when the matter was called, it was discovered that the unions were not properly served with the court processes.
Justice Kanyip faulted ASUU for serving processes meant for the unions, on the Minister, Ngige.
ASUU’s lawyer, Mr. Marshall Abubakar told the court that his client did not know the unions existed until it heard the announcement of their registration from the Minister.