• Asks EFCC to stop sealing up suspects’ assets
Lagos-based human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has argued that the directive of ‘no work, no pay’ rule of the federal government against striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) cannot be justified in law on the grounds that only the Governing Councils of the affected institutions are empowered by the relevant laws to subject the academic staff to any form of disciplinary action.
Falana has also advised the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to stop sealing up assets belonging to suspects of financial crimes.
The senior lawyer said in a statement yesterday that the salaries and allowances of striking lecturers cannot be seized without due process.
Last week, the federal government directed the Vice Chancellors of all federal universities in the country to apply Section 43 of the Trade Disputes Amendment Act by seizing the salaries and allowances of the striking members of ASUU.
Falana stated that based on his stance on the matter, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, has not challenged the decisions of the Supreme Court which he cited ‘that it is the exclusive powers of the Governing Council of every university to discipline lecturers whose employment enjoys statutory flavour’.
However, he said: “With magisterial authority, Ngige was reported to have said that until section 43 of the Trade Disputes Amendment Act which disentitles employees to payment of salaries and allowances during strikes ‘is expunged or repealed through legislative process by the National Assembly, it remains not just applicable but a point of law for compliance by all citizens of Nigeria’.”
Falana further noted that: “It is curious to note that the minister did not disclose that the federal government has always put the law aside in a bit to end strikes embarked upon by workers in the public service. In other words, a clause is usually inserted in collective agreements that employees who had taken part in an industrial action would not be damnified in any manner whatsoever and howsoever.”
He stated that the practice was judicially endorsed in the case of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities v Federal Government of Nigeria (unreported suit no NIC/8/2004 whose judgment was delivered on May 8, 2007) where the National Industrial Court held that “…it is perfectly lawful for an employer to choose to dispense with the ‘no work no pay’ rule.
“In other words, strike pay is lawful if an employer chooses to pay same and not to penalise the strikers in any other way for the strike. It is lawful for employees to agree with their employer that wages will be paid and no other detriment suffered even if the strike embarked upon.”
In another development, Falana yesterday advised the EFCC to stop sealing up assets belonging to suspects of financial crimes.
The lawyer gave the advice in Ikeja at the presentation of ‘Compendium of High-Profile Corruption and Financial Crimes Cases in Nigeria.’
The compendium, which highlights high-profile corruption cases and their implications on the economy was compiled by Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), a Civil Society Organisation.
Falana said sealing up of properties while cases were still pending in courts did not do the public any good as the assets waste away with no economic value.
The lawyer said it would be good if those assets were put into use by the EFCC, pending the final determination of the cases in which they were linked.
“I do not subscribe to the locking up of assets or properties while a case is still pending in court. I do not think the EFCC or other anti-corruption agencies should be doing that.
“If somebody has stolen money to build a hospital, just like the one on Adeniyi Jones in Ikeja, somebody was alleged to have stolen to build the hospital worth about N2.5billion, which is sealed now.
“For me,you are not doing the public any good by just locking up the place and by putting your inscription: ‘Under Investigation’.
“Why don’t you allow it to function so that the place can benefit the people, because it is already acquired for public purpose.
“And this should go for all buildings too.”