Following an unresolved and protracted labor dispute between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and its employer, the Federal Government, the latter filed a petition dragging ASUU to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN).
The move appeared to be the last resort used by the federal government to end one of the longest strike actions by Nigerian university professors.
Similarly, the Socio-Economic Rights and Responsibility Project (SERAP) and five university students sued President Muhammadu Buhari in the National Labor Court for an order compelling the federal government to honor the agreement reached with the ASUU.
SERAP and the students asked the court to order the government to immediately implement the terms of the renegotiated agreement of 2009 and the memorandum of action of 2020 in order to end the strike and refrain from any action. further violation of the rights of Nigerian students to quality education.
ASUU members have been on strike since February 14, 2022, and all avenues of bargaining to end the strike have proven abortive as the union insisted on renegotiating the 2009 agreement, implementing of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), the compensation earned, among other demands that border on the renovation of Nigerian universities.
In a letter to the Chief Registrar of the National Labor Court of Nigeria, dated September 8, 2022, seen yesterday, the Minister of Labor and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, compelled the court to give the matter a expedited hearing to bring the dispute to an end.
Dr Ngige said ASUU refused to call off the action despite several apprehensions.
Quoting Article 17 of the Labor Disputes Act, CAP. T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004), the Minister added that the instrument of referral is raised in accordance with the powers given to the Minister of Labor and Employment by the commercial dispute resolution mechanisms.
The letter reads: “Dear Chief Registrar, Transmission of Instrument of Referral in Trade Dispute between the Federal Government/Federal Department of Education and the University Academic Staff Union. Please find attached three (3) original copies of an Instrument of Referral regarding the trade dispute between the Federal Government of Nigeria / Federal Ministry of Education and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for adjudication by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN).
“The instrument of referral is lifted in accordance with the powers conferred on the Honorable Minister for Labor and Employment by the commercial dispute resolution mechanisms and the provisions of section 17 of the Commercial Disputes Act, CAP. T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004) Considering that ASUU members have been on strike since February 14, 2022 and have refused to call off the action despite fearing the same , it would be appreciated if this dispute were subject to an expedited hearing in order to bring the dispute to a conclusion,” the letter added.
The other defendants in the SERAP trial, which has yet to be assigned to a judge, are the Minister for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, and the Federation’s Attorney General and Minister of justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
The plaintiffs also ask the court to obtain an order directing the defendants and their agents to immediately release and pay all withheld and unpaid wages, salaries, allowances and other emoluments both for and outside of the strike period. ongoing to all members. of the ASUU.
They further ask the court to issue an order of perpetual injunctive relief restraining the defendants and their agents from unlawfully waiving, rescinding and/or refusing to implement the renegotiated FGN-ASUU Agreement of 2009 and the memorandum of 2020.
The Claimants also want a declaration that the Defendants’ refusal to enforce the terms of the renegotiated FGN-ASUU Agreements in 2009 and the 2020 Memorandum of Action which resulted in the prolonged strike is unlawful, inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s obligations rights and violates students’ right to a quality education.
They further seek a declaration that the actions of the defendants and their agents of withholding wages from ASUU members for the duration of the strike while paying members of sister unions are discriminatory and in violation of members’ rights. of the ASUU. right to freedom of association, right to strike and collective bargaining.
In an affidavit attached to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that the disruption to classes undermines both the quality and duration of students’ education.
They also argued that the situation has worsened existing disparities in access to university education in the country, further marginalizing economically disadvantaged parents and students.
The petitioners claimed that the federal government failed to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the right to quality education and the right to freedom of association through the principle of collective bargaining.
ASUU strike: Education minister blames Jonathan Govt for crisis
They also argued that “although Nigeria has ratified several human rights treaties, which guarantee the right to quality education of Nigerian students, the federal government has over the years refused to respond to the demands of the ASUU and to address the environmental poverty in the country. the universities.
“The students who are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Dongo Daniel Davou; Oyebode Joshua Babafemi; Ejie Kemkanma; Peter Itohowo Aniefiok; and Imam Naziru. They are students from Plateau State University, Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Port Harcourt, Uyo University and University of Ibadan respectively.
“The non-enforcement of the agreements with ASUU is also a fundamental violation of the right to education without discrimination or exclusion, as strike actions continue to penalize economically disadvantaged parents who do not have the means or the capacity to pay. send their children to private schools.
“Equal access of Nigerian children and youth to quality and uninterrupted education, including at the university level, would help produce fundamentally equal citizens and people who actively participate in society.
“This would enable people to enjoy the rights and fulfill the obligations associated with citizenship,” the petitioners said.