The legal tussle between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) took a different dimension on Wednesday, when a three-member panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal, sitting in Abuja admonished counsel in the matter to meet and discuss out-of-court settlement of the dispute.
ASUU, which had been on strike since February this year, last week appealed the ruling of the National Industrial Court, which ordered the University lecturers to return to the classroom, pending the determination of the suit, the Federal Government filed to query the legality of their strike action.
But, when the matter came up on Wednesday, one of the Justices on the panel, Justices George will Abraham asked counsel if he could sit on the panel considering his relationship with one of the Professors; and both counsels to the Federal Government and ASUU asked him to remain on the panel that, they have confidence in him for a just judgement in the matter.
As counsel to ASUU, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) move his application dated September 28, 2023, seeking the stay of execution of the ruling of the National Industrial Court and to also set it aside, counsel to the Federal Government, James Igwe objected on the ground that the Federal Government has not been served with the application.
At this point, Justice Abraham began admonishing counsel in the matter to come together and think of how to resolve the matter immediately, in the interest of University students.
Other members on the panel, Justices Hama Barka and Nature Gafai joined their brother Justice in appealing to Falana and Igwe to have a round table discussion and resolve their differences, saying, “It should not be war, war, go back and talk”.
Both Igwe and Falana, representing the Federal Government and ASUU respectively promised to heed the advice of the court and will meet and think of how to resolve the matter for the striking lecturers to go back to the classroom.
Both counsels agreed to put their heads together and will have information for the court on Thursday (today), being the next adjourned day to hear ASUU’s application.
ASUU had approached the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, asking it to set aside the ruling of the National Industrial Court, which ordered to call off its over seven-month-old strike action.
The union, in a 14-ground of appeal equally applied for a stay of execution of the judgement. One of the grounds of appeal said, “The learned Trial Judge erred in law and thereby occasioned a miscarriage of justice when he decided to hear and determine the Respondents’ motion for an interlocutory injunction when he knew or ought to have known that the substantive suit filed by the Claimant.
The appeal also faulted the judge’s order that the strike was an infringement on the right of students and added also that, “The learned trial Judge erred in law when he held that the rollover strike is an infringement of the right of the Nigerian students and the government who is the owner of the universities.
That the trial judge erred in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice when he granted the order of interlocutory injunction in favour of the Respondents without exercising his discretion judicially and judiciously and holding that ‘there is no doubt that the balance of convenience tilts in favour of the Claimants/ Applicants’.
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