SERAP’s Bid to Join FG’s Suit against ASUU Suffers Setback
* Court adjourns till Sept 16
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The attempt by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to join the suit filed by the federal government challenging the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Monday suffered a temporary setback.
This is following the refusal of Justice P. I. Hamman to join the rights group as an interested party in the suit at this stage.
The federal government had last week dragged ASUU before the Industrial Court sitting in Abuja over the protracted industrial action that is running into the seventh month.
The government in addition had urged the court to grant accelerated hearing of the matter in the interest of justice.
However, when the matter was called on Monday, SERAP’s lawyer, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), informed the court of an application by his client, seeking the court’s permission to include SERAP as a party in the federal government suit.
Adegboruwa told Justice Hamman that SERAP had filed a similar suit seeking to compel the federal government to honour its 2009 agreement with ASUU, adding that granting the joinder request would forestall duplicity of outcomes concerning the industrial dispute.
“We filed a similar suit on 8 September, asking the court to compel the Federal Government to honour an agreement it willingly entered into with ASUU”, he said.
But this request, was however, challenged by Mr Tijjani Gazali (SAN), the counsel to the federal government, who argued that SERAP cannot be allowed to come in at this stage because the case of the plaintiff at the Monday’s proceedings was just for mention.
Meanwhile, the counsel to the striking lecturers, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), responding, informed the court that he was aware of efforts by the lawyers to file court papers in the suit on Monday.
In a bench ruling, the trial judge, Justice Hamman, agreed with Gazali that the suit was not yet ripe for consolidation, adding that he was only presiding as a vacation judge and that the case would be assigned to another judge for adjudication after vacation.
He subsequently ordered the parties in the suit to file and exchange their processes and fixed Friday, September 16, for further mention of the case.
The ongoing strike started on February 14, with an initial four-week period, but has persisted owing to the failure of the government to meet ASUU’s demands.
On 29 August, ASUU announced an indefinite extension of the strike, accusing the government of insincerity, an action which necessitated the current litigation.
Specifically, the federal government by the suit is seeking the court’s interpretation of Section 18 LFN 2004, “especially as it applies to the cessation of strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour and Employment and conciliation is ongoing”, a statement from the Ministry of Labour said on Sunday.
It disclosed further that the federal government also, “requested an order of the court for ASUU members to resume work in their various universities while the issues in dispute are being addressed by the NICN in consonance with the provisions of Section 18 (I) (b) of the TDA Cap T8. LFN 2004”.