A judge of the Court of Appeal in Abuja on Wednesday urged the lawyers representing both the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Nigerian government to work out an out-of-court solution to the ongoing trade dispute that has shut down Nigerian public universities for over seven months.
Biobele Georgewill, a member of the court’s three-member panel, gave the recommendation at a hearing on the industrial face-off.
ASUU represented by Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had filed an application for a stay of execution of a recent ruling of the National Industrial Court, which compelled the union to suspend its ongoing strike.
James Igwe, also a SAN, represented the federal government at Wednesday’s proceedings.
“As senior lawyers, for the sake of the children and our lawyers, have a discussion among yourselves, leave the litigants out and agree on a way forward, ” Mr Georgewill told the two senior lawyers.
“The nation will appreciate you for it,” he added.
In an interview after the proceedings with journalists, Mr Igwe expressed optimism that he and Mr Falana would be able to reach an agreement before the hearing scheduled to come up on Thursday.
Mr Falana also told journalists his clients also wanted an amicable resolution to the matter.
Hearing continues Thursday
Earlier on Wednesday, the Court of Appeal fixed Thursday to hear the application by ASUU seeking a stay of execution of the ruling of the National Industrial Court which ordered it to suspend its strike.
When the matter was called on Wednesday, counsel for ASUU, Mr Falana, told the court that he had two applications before the court but that he wished to withdraw one. The court granted his request.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Falana told the court that he had served the preferred application on the federal government and had proof of service.
Counsel for the federal government, Mr Igwe, however, told the court that it was the withdrawn application that he had seen and responded to.
He said in light of the new development, he needed time to respond to the application which he said he intended to oppose.
The presiding judge, Hamma Barka, leading two other justices on the panel, consequently fixed Thursday to hear ASUU’S application.
It was reported that the National Industrial Court had on 21 September ordered ASUU to call off the strike.
The court granted the motion on notice filed by the federal government, urging the lecturers to return to classrooms.
Ruling on the interlocutory injunction, the trial judge, Polycarp Hamman, restrained ASUU from continuing with the industrial action pending the determination of the suit filed against ASUU by the Federal Government.
Miffed by the ruling, the union headed to the appellant court to appeal the ruling.
The university lecturers embarked on the strike on 14 February demanding the federal government’s compliance with an agreement it entered with the union in 2009 on different issues including improved funding for universities and a review of teachers’ remuneration.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, recently held meetings with both the representatives of ASUU and the federal government to resolve the crisis.
Mr Gbajabiamila expressed optimism that the crisis would soon end after meeting with President Muhammad Buhari to submit the recommendations arrived at, at the recently held meetings on the issue.