By Ukpono Ukpong
The Federal Government has asked the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) to strike out the preliminary objection by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) against the suit, challenging the last prolonged strike of the union.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige brought the matter to the Court in August last year, following the failure of dialogue between the union and the Federal Government.
The Minister requested for an interlocutory injunction restraining ASUU from the strike, pending the determination of the substantive suit, seeking for the interpretation of the Trade Dispute Act (TDA) CAP T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004, as it relates to industrial actions.
Recall that ASUU was on strike for eight months to protest alleged non-implementation of its agreement with the Federal Government.
The court had earlier ordered ASUU to suspend the strike and resume work, pending the determination of the suit.
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When the case came up for hearing of ASUU’s preliminary objection on Tuesday, Femi Falana, the defence counsel, informed the court that his response could not be filed on Monday at the court’s registry due to issue with the internet.
Falana, therefore, sought for the leave of court for a short adjournment.
In his response, Benedict Kanyip, the presiding judge, granted Falana’s request and stepped down the matter until 1pm to enable him properly file his process and serve the claimants’ counsel.
But when the court resumed, Falana applied for his motion dated and filed September 19, 2022, wherein he sought for the leave of court for extension, and for his reply on point of law which was filed on Tuesday to be deemed as properly filed.
He also told the court that his preliminary objection was premised on the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter.
Citing order 3, rule 6 of the TDA, Falana argued that Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, did not follow due process before issuing the referral to the court.
He added that reconciliation steps were not duly followed and that the minister could only approach the court if parties of a trade union could not resolve their differences.
Reacting, James Igwe, counsel to the Federal Government, contended that Falana’s reply which he received five minutes before the court’s proceeding was on reply of facts and not on law.
He also argued that all the authorities cited by the defence counsel did not have any relevance to his application.
Igwe added that the national industrial court has the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
He also said the minister did not act out of the ordinary as order 3 rule 6 of the TDA conferred on him the power to refer the matter to NICN.
Igwe then called on the court to strike out the defence counsel’s objection.
In his ruling, Kanyip adjourned the matter till March 28 for ruling.
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