ASUU Sues FG Over Alleged Discriminatory Treatment Of Members

Joined in the suit as defendants are the former Ministers of Labour and Employment and Justice as well as the Accountant-General of the Federation.


A file photo combination of ASUU president Emmanuel Osodeke and the National Industrial Court building in Abuja.

 

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government over discriminatory, unfair and illegal treatment of its members.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, filed the suit on Tuesday at the National Industrial Court in Abuja, the nation’s capital, on behalf of ASUU.

Joined in the suit as defendants are the former ministers of Labour and Employment and Justice as well as the Accountant General of the Federation, according to a statement made available to Channels Television on Wednesday.

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In the suit with number NICN/ABJ/152/2023, the human rights lawyer is asking the court to determine “Whether having paid the salaries of members of the Joint Staff Union, National Association of Resident Doctors and lecturers in the Medical Facilities/Medical and Dental Academic of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nnewi Campus, Anambra State during the period of industrial actions, the decision of the Defendants to withhold the salaries of the members of the Claimant from February to October 2022 is not discriminatory and illegal.”

He also wants the court to determine “whether the members of ASUU are not entitled to payment of their salaries for the months of February to October 2022 forthwith.”

“Lecturers’ duties cover the following areas: Seminars (Peer-review of Journals, Serving of Professional bodies, Public Lectures, Serving on board of Parastatals); Research (Gathering data, Reading new Books and Journals, Writing and Publishing Scholars text); Teaching,” the suit reads in part.

“Owing to the refusal of the Defendants to implement the agreements between them and the Claimant, a trade dispute was declared by the Claimant in February 2022.

“The industrial action which resulted from the series of breaches emanating from the defendants herein does not abrogate our responsibilities as lecturers which includes paper administration, delivered lectures, seminars, tutorials, that should have been done during the withdrawal of the teaching component of our jobs, course evaluation, Peer evaluation, marking and moderating assignments, write course content, etc).

“Despite the withdrawal of teaching, the provision of educational services which cover other aspects of our engagement as academics (i.e research and community service) subsists across the public universities in Nigeria.

“The federal government failed to address the demands of the Claimant, the industrial dispute lasted until October 2022. The teaching component of our job was restored based on the orders made by this Honourable Court and the Court of Appeal.

“The Minister of Labour and Employment specifically instructed the Accountant-General of the Federation not to pay the members of ASUU members for the period of the industrial disharmony.

“The members of Joint Health Staff Union were on strike from March to May 2018 but the Defendants paid their salaries for the period of the strike. The members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors were on strike between September and October 2021 but the Defendants paid them their salaries for the period of the strike.

“Despite repeated demand the Defendants have refused to pay the salaries of members of the Claimant who took part in the strike that took place from February to October 2022.

“The 1st Defendant, who is a medical practitioner and hails from Anambra State, South East Nigeria directed the 3rd Defendant to pay all lecturers of the Medical Facilities / Medical and Dental Academic of the Nnamdi Azikwe University, Nnewi Campus, Anambra State to the exclusion of members of the Claimant in other public universities in Nigeria.

“The lecturers of the Medical Facilities / Medical and Dental Academic of the Nnamdi Azikwe University, Nnewi Campus, Anambra State participated in the industrial action of the Claimant that lasted from February to October 2022.

“Majority of the lecturers of the Medical Facilities / Medical and Dental Academic of the Nnamdi Azikwe University, Nnewi Campus, Anambra State are indigenes of Anambra State like the 1st Defendant.The 1st Defendant ordered the 3rd Defendant to pay the salaries of the lecturers of the Medical Facilities / Medical and Dental Academic of the Nnamdi Azikwe University, Nnewi Campus, Anambra State because of the circumstances of their birth.

“Owing to the refusal of the Defendants to implement the agreements between them and the Claimant, a trade dispute was declared by the Claimant in February 2022. Pursuant to the said trade dispute, the members of the Claimant embarked on a strike in February 2022. The strike was eventually called off in October 2022 based on the orders made by this Honourable Court and the Court of Appeal.

“The members of Joint Health Staff Union who were on strike from March to May 2018 were paid their salaries for the period of the strike. The 2nd Defendant ensured the payment of the health because of the fact that he is a medical doctor. The 2nd Defendant equally ensured the payment of the salaries of the members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors who were on strike between September and October 2021 because they are professional colleagues of the 2nd Defendant.

“The Defendants have subjected the members of the Claimant who took part in the strike that took place from February to October 2022 to discriminatory treatment by refusing to pay their salaries for the period of the strike.”

“Equality of opportunity and treatment in employment and occupation is a germane aspect of the overall principle of equality, which is now a universal norm. It is one of the most fundamental principles underlying any democratic society and is set forth in many international instruments, national constitutions and laws.

“The decision of the Defendants to withhold the salaries of the members of the Claimant who took part in an industrial action from February to October 2022 is discriminatory by virtue of Section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 2004.

“It is submitted with respect that Sections 42 and 14 of the 1999 Constitution as amended contains anti- discrimination clauses prohibiting selective and discriminatory application of laws and policies in favour of a particular group, section or sex to the prejudice of others.”

“In order to promote industrial harmony the Defendants decided to pay the salaries of health workers and resident doctors who were on strike between March and May 2018 as well as between September and October 2021 respectively.

“The 1st Defendant instructed the 3rd Defendant to pay the salaries of the members of the Claimant in medical faculties/medical and dental academics of the Nnamdi Azikwe University, Nnewi Campus, Anambra State.

“But without any legal justification, the Defendants have refused to pay the salaries of the members of the Claimant who took part in the industrial action that took place from February to October 2022 the Defendants have subjected the members of the Claimants to discrimination contrary to section 42(1) of the Constitution.

“Having paid the members of the Joint Health Staff Union and lecturers of the faculties/medical and dental academic of the Nnamdi Azikwe University Nnewi Campus Anambra State during the period of their strikes, the Defendants are under a legal obligation to order the payment of the salaries of the claimant’s members during that strike that lasted from February to October 2022.

“The Defendants’ recondite refusal to pay members of the Claimant having paid members of other unions that embarked on industrial action under the same circumstances contravenes section 42 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Articles 2 and of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act and other international treaties against discrimination.”

“It is submitted that the members of the Claimant and the members of the joint Health staff union, National Association of Resident Doctors as well as lecturers of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University are entitled to equal treatment. By paying the members of the Joint Health Staff Union, National Association of Resident Doctors and lecturers of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University during their strikes and denying the members of the Claimant their salaries during their strike the Defendants have violated Section 42(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Act (Cap A9).”