The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has adjourned till Friday to rule on an application the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, filed to stay the execution of the ruling of the National Industrial Court, NIC, that ordered an end to its ongoing strike action.
A three-man panel of the appellate court led by Justice Hamma Barka, said it would also consider the merit in ASUU’s request for leave to file a comprehensive appeal to set-aside the NIC ruling.
The counsel that represented ASUU in the matter, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, had after the case was called up, notified the appellate court that his client filed an application for permission to formally lodge an appeal against the interim injunction that directed the striking varsity lecturers to return to the classroom.
Though ASUU earlier filed its proposed 14-ground of appeal, however, its lawyer, Falana, SAN, noted that going by the provisions of section 243 (3) of the 1999, as amended, leave of the appellate court would be required for such appeal to gain validity.
ASUU maintained that its proposed appeal against the NIC order, was based on “grounds of law and on grounds bordering on fundamental human rights”.
Falana urged the appellate court to accede to ASUU’s request to enable it to challenge the order he said occasioned grave miscarriage of justice against the aggrieved varsity lecturers.
“This honourable court should not shut out the Appellant and thousands of its members desirous of ventilating their grievances pursuant to section 6 (6) (b) and 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended”, Falana pleaded.
Besides, he said his client was willing to withdraw the application for stay of execution so as to expedite the hearing and determination matter.
Meanwhile, on his part, FG’s lawyer, Mr. James Igwe, SAN, said he was opposed to ASUU’s application, even as he urged the appellate court to dismiss it for want of competence and jurisdiction.
FG’s lawyer drew the attention of the court to the fact that the striking lecturers were yet to obey the order of the industrial court that was made since September 21.
He argued that ASUU, being in contempt of a subsisting court order, could not seek any favourable decision from the appellate court.
As at today, ASUU is in contempt of court. It is illegal for ASUU to remain on strike in the face of the industrial court order.
“Section 18(1) of the Trade Dispute Act does not allow a party in contempt to come before Court of Appeal with the type of ASUU’s application”, Igwe submitted.
He further prayed the appellate court to dismiss ASUU’s request for leave to appeal against the order of the NIC that it had yet to obey, adding that it was late for the application for stay of execution to be withdrawn since all the parties have already joined issues.
After the panel had listened to both sides, it adjourned the matter till Friday for ruling.
It will be recalled that the appellate court had earlier urged both FG and ASUU to explore an out-of-court resolution of the dispute that made varsity lecturers to embark on a strike action since February 14.
The NIC had in its ruling, ordered ASUU to call off the over seven-month old strike action in national interest and for the sake of undergraduates in the country.
It ordered the striking lecturers to return to the classroom, pending the determination of a suit FG filed to query the legality of their strike action.