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ASUU: Industrial court fixes Friday for hearing in FG’s suit

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The Federal Government’s suit challenging the seven-month-old strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been rescheduled by the National Industrial Court in Abuja for hearing on on Friday.

Justice Polycarp Hamman explained on Monday that this would to allow parties time to file their papers.

He declined the application for joinder filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), and rejected its lawyer’s request for the consolidation of the case with an earlier one filed by the group.

At the mention of the case, SERAP’s lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa said his client sought to be made a party in the suit with the possibility of having it consolidated with the one the group earlier filed.

Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said SERAP filed a similar suit seeking to compel the Federal Government to honour its 2009 agreement with the striking lecturers.

He said his client’s request to be made a party to the suit was to forestall duplicity of outcomes concerning the industrial dispute.

Lawyer to the Federal Government, Tijani Gazali, who is also a SAN, raised objection to SERAP’s request for the consolidate of both cases. He contended that SERAP’s application was premature because the case was fixed for mention on Monday.

In his submission, lawyer to ASUU, another SAN, Mr Femi Falana said he was aware of efforts by the lawyers to file the documents on Monday.

Ruling, Justice Hamman agreed with the argument of the Federal Government lawyer’s that the suit was not ripe for consolidation.

The judge said he was only presiding as a vacation judge and that the case would be re-assigned after the court’s vacation.

Justice Hamman then ordered parties in the suit to file and exchange all required processes and adjourned till Friday.

Monday’s court session was witnessed by ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke and other officials of the group.

After the hearing, Falana noted that the Federal Government often adopted “dilatory tactics that have a way of prolonging strikes”.

“They (government) are yet to put their house in order. The government has not been able to make a case for the intervention of the court, hence the basis of adjournment.

“This is not the first time the government has adopted this rather dilatory tactics that have a way of prolonging strike. We were here last year when you have the resident doctors’ strike. It was the same approach.

“They (the government) said they (the resident doctors) won’t be paid, but at the end of the day, the government had to pay them. And that is what happens all the time”.”

Adegboruwa said the Federal Government has abdicated its responsibility of funding public universities, a development that informed the suit filed by his client.

ASUU demands included government’s implementation of the Memorandum of Action on funding for revitalisation of public universities, which was signed in December 2020.

Other demands are Earned Academic Allowances, renegotiation of the 2009 agreement and the deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) for staff payment, among others.

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