[UPDATED]: Industrial Court Orders ASUU To Call Off Strike pending determination of FG’s Suit

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The Abuja Vacation Judge of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Hamman Polycarp has granted an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU by themselves, members, agents, servants, privies or howsoever called from taking further steps and doing any act or otherwise continuing with the indefinite strike or any strike action pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed by the Federal Government.

 

 

Justice Polycarp held that the interlocutory motion filed by the Federal Government is meritorious and the request of ASUU counsel for the court to grant an accelerated hearing of the application in place of an injunctive relief is of no moment since by Order 25 of the Rules of the court qualifies the case as one to be placed on Fast-Track for speedy trial.



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Justice Polycarp further stated that the court has also taken into consideration the larger interests of the public, particularly the innocent students in the public universities most of whose parents and guardians cannot afford the enormous amount of money required to either send them to private universities within the country or take them outside this country for undergraduate or graduate studies.

From facts, the counsel to the applicants- Federal Government and Minister of Education had filed Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction and sought for an order of the Honourable Court to grant an interlocutory injunction restraining the Academic Staff Union of Universities, by themselves, members, agents, servants, privies or howsoever called from taking further steps and doing any act or otherwise continuing with the indefinite strike or any strike action pending the hearing and determination of the suit/referral to the Honourable Court dated 8 September 2022 made at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Employment as a matter of national interest pursuant to his powers under Section 17 of the Trade Disputes Act.

The application was based on the ground that   Section 18 (1) (e) of the Trade Disputes Act expressly provide that ‘a worker shall not take part in a strike in connection with any Trade Dispute where the dispute has subsequently been referred to the National Industrial Court under Section 14 (1) or 17 of the Act.’

The applicant urged the Court to grant the application as part of extreme necessity to avert the continuing irreparable losses and damages against the Federal Government of Nigeria, educational infrastructure and development in Nigeria which may occur before the final determination of the case.

In opposition, the Defendant/Respondent- Academic Staff Union Of Universities (ASUU) argued that it is the serial breach of the applicants of negotiated and binding Collective Agreements that led to the industrial action the subject of this suit. That the right to industrial action is statutory as provided in the Trade Union Act.

The applicants counsel further averred that the reliefs in the application are the same issues to be decided in the substantive suit which cannot be determined at this interlocutory stage of the proceedings and argued that since there is an undue delay on the part of the Claimants in bringing the instant Application about seven (7) months since the commencement of the industrial action.

The court was urged to refuse the application, or in the alternative make an order for expeditious trial of the suit in line with the provisions of Order 22 Rule 4(1) of the Rules of the Court.

In a well-considered ruling after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Polycarp Hamman held that an interlocutory injunction which is usually granted at the discretion of the court is an equitable remedy granted before or during trial to prevent an irreparable injury from occurring before the court has the opportunity to finally determine the case before it.

The court maintained that main purpose of interlocutory motion is to keep the parties to an action in status quo in which they were before the judgment on the act complained of; to protect the applicant against injury which damages cannot be adequate compensation if at the end of the trial the applicant succeeds in obtaining judgment in the suit.

“It may be appropriate to state here that, in the circumstance of the trade dispute between the parties in this suit, this court has also taken into consideration the larger interests of the public, particularly the innocent students in the public universities most of whose parents and guardians cannot afford the enormous amount of money required to either send them to private universities within the country or take them outside this country for undergraduate or graduate studies.

“These innocent students who are the victims of the protracted strike have been out of school for more than seven (7) months now in a country where age is a major factor in virtually everything including employment.

“Many individuals who would have graduated before the age of 30 and have their lifetime ambition of serving their fatherland as corps members achieved have been denied and deprived of the opportunity as a result of the prolonged industrial action due to no fault of theirs. Even in the area of employment for instance, part of the requirement of persons who want to enlist into the Nigerian Army Direct Short Service Commission Course 26/2022 is to be between the ages of 20 and 30 years and 25-40 years of age for Medical Consultants. The same age requirement applies to the enlistment into the Nigerian Air Force Direct Short Service Commission Course, to mention but a few instances.

“With respect to the requirement for inadequacy of damages and undertaking as to damages, it is manifest from the circumstances of this suit that the amount of damages and injury being caused to the education sector of this nation and the innocent students in the public universities as a result of the lengthened strike action is irreparable, and no amount of compensation can be enough or adequate for the losses.” Justice Polycarp.


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