The industrial action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) is officially over.
The National Industrial Court has ordered members of the union to return to work.
The Federal Government in a suit prayed for the order for ASUU to call off its seven months strike.
The Minister of Labour and Employment on behalf of the Federal Government had filed the matter before the court by way of referral to resolve the issue of the ongoing strike by ASUU.
Delivering judgment, Justice Polycarp Hamman, held that the court determined the application based on issue two as formulated by the claimants.
”The ASUU by themselves, members, agents, servants or anyone privy to them is hereby restrained from taking further step or taking any action or otherwise any strike action pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit..
”The court in addition finds merit in the application for Interlocutory injunction brought by the claimants,” he held.
Hamman further said that in granting an injunction, certain requirements such as existence of legal rights, balance of convenience, conduct and evidence of damages and loss needed to be met by the applicant seeking reliefs.
He also discountenanced the argument of Mr Femi Falana, SAN, counsel to ASUU, on the issue that Mr Okechukwu Wampa was not qualified to depose to the claimants affidavit.
Falana had argued in the defendant’s counter-affidavit that Wampa’s deposition was based on hearsay.
The court said that Wampa being a legal officer employed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and deployed to the Ministry of Labour and Employment as a legal adviser could depose in the issue and could offer legal advise in the matter.
He resolved the issue citing section 115 (1) (2) of Evidence Act, 2011 and section 12(2) of NICN Act,2006.
The court while addressing the issue of competency of the referral as raised by Falana, it ruled that the issue will be delved into when taking the defendant’s preliminary objection application and during the hearing of the substantive suit
The judge added that the balance of convenience tilted to the claimants based on paragraph 3,5,6 and 7 of their affidavit.
He said the paragraphs which cited the plight of students who ought to have graduated still in school as the result of the strike and the claimants who owns the public universities that are on strike as balance of convenience.
The court also ruled that the intellect of students who have been out of school for several months equated irreparable loss and damages were the facilities that have been dormant for months.
The court also discountenanced the argument of the defendant which submitted that the urgency of the matter was self- induced.
Falana in his submission had prayed the court for an accelerated hearing in the suit instead of granting an interlocutory injunction.
The court however differed that it was not self-induced as parties had been in negotiation all the while until the defendant declared the strike as indefinite on Aug.29.
The court therefore held that the conduct of the claimants were not reprehensible.
The court in conclusion stated that granting an injunction was at the discretion of the court, that the court however found the application meritorious on the strength of section 256 of the Constitution, section 18(1e) of the Trade Disputes Act and section 17 of the NICN proceeding, as shown by the claimants
The court made no order as to cost and added that the court will be sent back to the president of the court to be reassigned as the court ends its vacation by Sept.27.
He added that the application was brought in pursuant to the rules of the NICN 2017 proceeding.
Igwe further stated that it was predicated on 11 grounds, supported by 21 paragraph affidavit deposed to Mr Okechukwu Wampa, a Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, attached with three exhibits and an undertaking as to damages deposed to by Wampa.
He also urged the court to grant the prayer sought and proceeded to adopt in its entirety and totality the written address, adding that the claimants had met all the requirements to enable the court to grant the injunction
He cited that claimant’s action was not apprehensive and regarding damages, he said the lost time of seven months of the strike could not be regained.
He concluded by saying that going by the provision of section 18 (1) (e) of the Trade Disputes Act 2004, a worker should not embark on strike when a matter is already before the court, urged the court to grant the injunction.
Mr Femi Falana SAN, counsel to the defendant stated that he had before the court a nine-paragraph counter-affidavit filed on Sept. 16 deposed to by the president of ASUU
He further submitted that attached to the affidavit were eight exhibits accompanied by a written address and proceeded to adopt the same as their argument in opposition to the interlocutory injunction.
Falana in addition argued that the minister lacked the power to order the court in the referral to direct ASUU to call off its strike.
He averred further that once a referral was before a court, no party could go outside of it.
Falana in his argument also pointed out that the claimants did not follow due process in part 1 of TDA 2004 which stipulated that only an individual has the right to approach the court as a trade union will first need to go to the Industrial Arbitration Panel ( IAP), before coming to the court.
He said the union can only approach the NICN to appeal the decision of IAP
Falana also said that the letter that accompanied the referral had the name of the Attorney-General as a party in the suit, but that however, the application filed before the court was without the name.
He also said that the referral asking for an accelerated hearing was not necessary as there was not urgency in the matter as the strike had lasted for seven months
He also submitted that the balance of convenience was not on the side of the claimants and that the conduct of the claimants in the prayer for the court to interpret the 2009 Agreement should be discountenanced.
He finally urged the court to dismiss the application or direct parties to the IAP.
- This story has been updated