The National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja had today (Wednesday), ordered the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), to call of its ongoing strike.
The court in a ruling by Justice Polycarp Hamman on the interlocutory injunction filed by the Federal Government had restrained ASUU from continuing the 7-month old industrial action pending the determination of the suit.
Justice Hamman who is a vacation judge ordered that the case filed should be returned to the president of the Industrial Court for reassignment to another judge.
What the Federal Government was seeking
The Federal Government’s lawyer, Mr. James Igwe, had prayed the court to order the striking university lecturers to in the interim, return to work, pending the determination of the substantive suit before the court.
He maintained that the matter was not only urgent but of great national interest as millions of students have been at home for over seven months.
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Igwe in his argument said, “Sections 47 of the Trade Dispute Act, TDA, 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 contended that under section 18(1)E of the TDA, employees, could not continue a strike action when a matter is already referred to the industrial court for adjudication.
Igwe said there was need for the matter to be expeditiously determined to enable university students to return to school, adding that failure to call off the strike would cause irreparable damage to not only the students but also to the nation.
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He stated that since the dispute between FG and lectures is already before the court for adjudication, it would be proper and in the interest of justice for the strike to be suspended.
Why the court ordered ASUU to call off strike
Justice Hamman while ruling on the case, held that the application was meritorious and deserved to be granted by the court.
In his dismissal of the objection of the ASUU lawyer, Femi Falana, the Judge further held that the industrial action is detrimental to public university students who cannot afford to attend private tertiary institutions.
He said the Trade Dispute Act mandates workers not to embark on strike once an issue has been referred to the industrial court.
Justice Hamman also upheld the application of the Federal Government saying it was meritorious and granted.
The judge said, “The balance of convenience tilts in favour of the applicant.
“I hold that this application is meritorious and this application is granted.’’
The court therefore restrained “ASUU, whether by themselves, members, agents, privies or howsoever called, from taking further steps and doing any act in continuance of the strike action pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed.”
The judge refused to fine the federal government as demanded by ASUU