Days after the Association of Academic Personnel of Universities is brought before the National Industrial Court, the federal government may consider an out-of-court settlement with the union, Saturday PUNCH has learned.
The seven-month-old strike started by ASUU was declared at the University of Lagos on February 14, 2022, by the union’s president, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke. The union said it had to go on strike after the government failed to honor its previous agreements with the union.
Some of the demands of the union include release of revitalization funds for universities, payment of teacher allowances earned, introduction of University Transparency Accountability System as payment platform for university teachers, renegotiation of ASUU-FG 2009 agreement among others.
In an effort to resolve the strike and other controversial issues, the government had assembled a panel headed by Professor Emeritus Nimi-Briggs to lead the government’s negotiating team.
Education Minister Adamu Adamu had told State House Correspondents at a press conference that the government’s refusal to agree to pay teachers’ salaries for the six months they had spent at home brought the strike to a halt. . He said ASUU insisted that teachers should be paid their salary for the period they are on strike.
But Labor and Employment Minister Chris Ngige took the striking university teachers to court.
In a September 8 letter addressed to the chief clerk of the Industrial Court, Ngige requested an expedited hearing of the lawsuit to resolve the dispute between the union and the government.
He asked the court to interpret the provisions of Section 18 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 in its entirety, especially as it applies to cessation of strikes once a trade dispute has been resolved.
The lawsuit initially heard by Judge Hamman Polycarp on Monday, September 12, 2022, was adjourned until September 16, 2022.
Out-of-court settlement possible
Meanwhile, a source at the Ministry of Labor and Employment who spoke in strict confidence to one of our correspondents on Thursday revealed that the government could consider an out-of-court settlement if the striking teachers call off their strike and return to work.
The source noted that the reason the striking teachers were taken to court was that they were unable to return to work despite the government’s best efforts.
The source said: “We can consider an out-of-court settlement if they agree to return to work. The reason we initially took them to court was because they rejected our pleas to return to work. We met them several times and made attempts at reconciliation, but they refused. The reason for going to court is that the judge is forcing them to return to work. If they agree to resume, there is no need to continue go with the lawsuit.”
Pak continues on Monday
The National Industrial Court has been adjourned Friday to Monday, Sept. 19, the hearing in the lawsuit filed by the federal government against ASUU’s ongoing strike.
During Friday’s resumed hearing, federal government counsel James Igwe (SAN) asked the court to expedite the case due to the urgency of the case so that students can return to school.
He requested the court to order ASUU to resume work pending the verdict in the lawsuit. But ASUU’s counsel, Femi Falana (SAN), opposed the request, stating that it would come down to determining the substantive lawsuit.
Igwe told the court that since the case was already in court, it would be appropriate to call off the strike pending the verdict in the lawsuit.
ASUU’s counsel, Femi Falana (SAN), argued that the case was adjourned until Friday for further mention and not for a hearing. He said he was served with the federal government’s motion for a preliminary injunction.
The judge said it was a matter of determination and therefore could not be resolved before the hearing.
Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights And Accountability Project’s request to join the lawsuit was not heard because counsel filed another request that was served on the party only yesterday.
SERAP’s lawyer prayed the court to withdraw the earlier application and replace it with the current one. The court subsequently rejected the earlier request.
The attorney also argued that for the sake of justice, his request should be heard before hearing other matters related to the lawsuit.
For his part, Falana agreed that in the interest of justice and clarity, it would be appropriate to hear SERAP’s request regarding the same issue before establishing other issues.
Falana added that ASUU was currently meeting with stakeholders to ensure the ongoing crisis was resolved. He appealed to the federal government to work with the union to resolve the issue.
In response, federal government counsel argued that SERAP’s application was not ripe for hearing because the relevant papers had not been served on him.
Hamman then adjourned the lawsuit until Monday, September 19, 2022 for hearing. In his ruling, he said that SERAP’s application was not yet ripe for consideration, as it was not served to parties through the Ministry of Justice until Thursday.
Buhari meets Briggs
The president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Retd.), pledged Friday to hold further talks with relevant stakeholders to end the seven-month-old strike.
According to a statement signed by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President told the President and some pro-chancellors of federal universities at the State House in Abuja: “I will consult further and I “I’ll come back to you.”
The statement was titled “ASUU Strike: President Buhari Meets Pro-Chancellors of Varsities, Promises Further Consultations.”
The president said that, without necessarily going back on the policies already established, he would consult further and come back to them.
The pro-chancellors were led to the meeting by Prof. Nimi Briggs, who said they met the president in three capacities: “As president and commander in chief, as father of the nation and as visitor to federal universities.”
Citing the recent listing of the University of Ibadan among the first 1,000 universities in the world, Briggs noted that “the future of the university system in the country is bright,” despite the seven-month industrial action.
Briggs praised the federal government for the concessions already made to the striking teachers, including offers to raise teachers’ salaries by 23.5 percent and a 35 percent increase for professors.
However, he asked for “a further increase in salary, given the economic situation of the country”.
The pro-chancellors also called for the government’s No-Work, No-Pay stance to be reviewed, as it promised teachers would make up for lost time once an amicable situation was reached and schools reopened.
Education Secretary Goodluck Opiah said all concessions from the federal government were intended to ensure the union action would end, but ASUU had remained adamant.
NANS in court
The leader of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Umar Faruk Lawal, has sued some ministers and striking university teachers over the union action.
In his lawsuit before the National Industrial Court in Abuja, a copy of which was made available to our correspondent, Lawal noted that the court ordered ASUU executives, the Federation Attorney General and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of Education and that the court ordered them to appear within 14 days.
The document reads in part: “You are hereby ordered to appear before you in any suit by Umar Faruk Lawal (President, National Association of Nigerian Students) within 14 days of service of this complaint to you, including the date of such service. from the Department of Library Science, Bayero University Kano, Nigeria.”
Canoe adopts N304m. good
The Kano State Government has approved the payment of N304m as fees to 287 eligible academic staff members of the state-owned Yusuf Maitama Sule University.
A statement in Kano on Friday by Information Commissioner Mallam Muhammad Garba said approval was given weekly by the state’s executive council.
According to NAN, Mohammed added that the installment payment of the outstanding employee benefits would be paid monthly from October.
He added: “The breakdown of the amount translates to N297m for verified staff, while N6.5m is estimated for the settlement of 10 other academic staff. The names of the 10 others were accidentally omitted during the previous payment exercise. The council also approved the release of N82.1m to the YMSU for the direct provision and supply of equipment to the Faculty of Science.”
He added that the council also approved N84.9m for the state university of science and technology in Wudil. He noted that the money was earmarked for payment to eligible academic staff outstanding students Work Experience Scheme and Teaching Practice Grants for 2019/2020 and 2021/2022 sessions.