The Federal Government through the National Universities Commission (NUC) has directed vice-chancellors to re-open universities and resume academic activities.
“Ensure that ASUU members immediately resume/commence lectures; Restore the daily activities and routines of the various University campuses,” NUC Director, Finance and Accounts, Sam Onazi, said in a letter on behalf of the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Abubakar Rasheed.
The letter was addressed to all vice-chancellors; pro-chancellors and chairmen of governing councils of federal universities.
The directive comes seven months after public universities in the country were shut when members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on industrial action over poor welfare packages and some unpaid entitlements.
The National Industrial Court (NIC), Abuja last week ordered the lecturers to call off their seven-month strike and return to the classrooms but ASUU subsequently filed an appeal over the ruling.
The counsel for ASUU, Femi Falana, based the appeal on 14 grounds. The motion is seeking two reliefs which are:
A) The leave to file the appeal pursuant to Section 243 of the Constitution that requires the party to seek a leave of court to appeal the judgement or ruling of the National Industrial Court (NIC).
B) Seeking for a stay of execution of the orders of the court, pending the hearing and determination of the appeal.
The Federal Government has dragged the Academic Staff Union of Universities (AUU) to the National Industrial Court over the union’s ongoing strike which is in its seventh month.
In a statement on Sunday, the Head of Press and Public Relations at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, said the Federal Government took the decision after dialogue between it and ASUU failed.
The government wants the National Industrial Court to order ASUU members to resume work, while the issues in dispute are being addressed by the court.
The referral instrument addressed to the Registrar of Industrial Court was dated September 8, 2022, and signed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.
The case is scheduled for mention at 9 am on Monday and the Federal Government is asking the court to determine whether the strike by ASUU is legal or not.
Also, the government wants the court to interpret in its entirety the provisions of Section 18 LFN 2004, especially as it applies to the cessation of the strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour and Employment and conciliation is ongoing.
Other requests made by the government to the court are:
“Interpret the provisions of Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap T8. LFN 2004, titled “Special Provision with Respect to payment of wages during Strikes and Lock-outs,” specifically dealing with the rights of employees/workers during the period of any strike or lock-out. Can ASUU or any other union that embarked on strike be asking to be paid salaries even with clear provisions of the law?
“Determine whether ASUU members are entitled to emoluments or “strike pay” during their period of strike, which commenced on February 14, 2022, more so in view of our national law as provided in Section 43 of the TDA and the International Labour Principles on the right to strike as well as the decisions of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association on the Subject.”
“Determine whether ASUU has the right to embark on strike over disputes as is the case in this instance by compelling the Federal Government to employ its own University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) in the payment of the wages of its members as against the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) universally used by the Federal Government in the nation for payment of wages of all her employees in the Federal Government Public Service of which university workers including ASUU members are part of or even where the government via NITDA subjected ASUU and their counterpart UPPPS university payment platform system software to integrity test (vulnerability and stress test) and they failed.”
The Federal Government also wants the court to determine the extent of ASUU’s demand since the 2020 Memorandum of Action (MOA) that the union signed with the government.
The demands include the funding for revitalisation of public universities as per the 2009 agreement, Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) payments, state universities proliferation and constitution of visitation panels and release of a white paper on the report of the visitation panels.
The others are the reconstitution of the government renegotiation team for renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, which was renegotiated in 2013/2014, due for renegotiation in 2018/2019 and the migration of ASUU members from IPPIS to its own UTAS, which is currently on test at NITDA.
Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae of the National Industrial Court in Abuja has ordered the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to immediately put in place a machinery to start the upward review of salaries to some judicial officers.
The judge gave the ruling on Thursday in a case filed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Sebastian Hon. The Senior Advocate had approached the court to seek a salary increase for Nigerian judges.
In his ruling, Justice Obaseki-Osaghae also ordered an upward review of the salaries of the affected judicial workers every year or at most every two years.
She also awarded a five hundred thousand judgement cost, in favour of the claimant, to be paid by thefirst, second, and third respondents
The court also holds that there is abundant evidence to support the claims that the current salaries of judges and justices, which were last reviewed in 2008 no longer reflect modern realities, owing to the devaluation of the naira, exchange rate, and the general economic downturn.
Justice Obaseki-Osaghae also held that the first defendant (RMAFC) has failed to use its Constitutional powers to review the earnings of these judicial officers, 14 years after the last review was done in 2008.
The court describes negligence, the refusal, and failure of the RMAFC to do its work since 2008.
She held that the negligence impoverished the judicial officers, and subjected them to embarrassment, describing the situation as a national shame.
Before ruling on the case, Justice Obaseki-Osaghae ruled on the issue of jurisdiction, holding that the claimant has shown sufficient reason and thus has jurisdiction over the claims.
The case had progressed at the court after earlier efforts by the National Assembly and the National Judicial Council to have an out-of-court settlement failed.
It listed, as defendants, the National Assembly, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the National Judicial Council.
Counsel to the claimant, Mr Adegboyega Awomolo in his final address insisted that the salaries and allowances of judicial officers remain unchanged since 2008.
He said there is an urgent need for an upward review in order to avoid litigants and lawyers appearing before judges who are highly underpaid.
The amount is to be paid to Achuba by the state government within the period of 30 days or 30% interest will be paid monthly.
The court, however, dismissed the former deputy governor’s prayers, asking that the sum of N328million and N32,000 be paid as part of impress when he was in government.
Achuba, had earlier taken the Kogi State government before the National Industrial Court, seeking a declaration that the decision of the government to withhold his allowances, amounted to unfair labour practice.
He asked for the sum of N921,572,758 for security vote, monthly impress, traveling allowances, outstanding memos, and statutory allocations due to his office, as then deputy governor.
Achuba was impeached in October 2019 by members of the Kogi State House of Assembly.
His impeachment followed the submission of a report of the committee set up by the State Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajana, to investigate an allegation of gross misconduct against the former deputy governor.
The National Industrial Court in Abuja has dismissed the suit filed by a former spokesperson of the Department Of State Services (DSS), Marilyn Ogar, over her retirement from office in September 2015.
Delivering judgment in the suit on Monday, Justice Olufunke Anuwe held that the originating summons filed by Marilyn Ogar was invalid and dead because it was filed two years and seven months after President Muhammadu Buhari approved her compulsory retirement from office.
Justice Anuwe further held that the original summons failed to disclose any reasonable cause of action neither was it served on the Attorney General of the Federation, the DSS and the agency’s Director General who are the defendants in the case.
Marilyn Ogar and 44 others were demoted and compulsorily retired by the Federal Government in September 2015.
The former DSS spokesperson asked the court to nullify her retirement and reinstate her with all her ranks, salaries and benefits to the employment of the FG.
She further asked the court to set aside her purported demotion from assistant director to chief security intelligence officer.
The President of the National Industrial Court, Justice Adeniran Adejumo, has said that by the next legal year which commences in September, four resident judges will be posted to Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Justice Adejumo said this at the commissioning of a new NIC building in the state, noting that it will allow for quick administration of justice.
“As from the beginning of the next legal year which is September, I will post four resident judges to preside in the Port Harcourt judicial division of the National Industrial Court so that cases here can be attended to without delay,” he said.
Furthermore, the NIC president pleaded with the Government to provide houses for the judges who would be presiding over the new court, to make it easier to carry out their duties.
He, however, thanked the governor, Nyesom Wike, for his overall support towards the judiciary, explaining that judicial officers had gone through so many challenges prior to the establishment of the new facility.
“I came to Rivers years ago with the intention of having a court that will take care of matters arising within our jurisdiction in Port Harcourt.
“The Chief Judge then gave me a court hall and chambers for me to do my business. I sent a judge here with two vehicles – a bus and a car, Our generator and all facilities.
“We renovated the court with our money, only to be here for some months and the court was locked.
“We lost the two vehicles and some other facilities. I had no choice than to relocate the court to Yenogoa and the Chief Judge was kind enough to discuss with his Excellency who gave us one of their courts and a residence was provided.
“As time went on, cases were swelling and the court in Yenogoa alone could not cater for these cases. I had to send some of these cases to Owerri, Calabar and Enugu,” Adejumo said.
But according to him, in a space of 15 months, the Rivers Government built what he described as an edifice which no other state government has ever done.
He said despite telling Governor Wike at the groundbreaking ceremony earlier that judgement will be administered in accordance with the law and not based on any bias, regardless of his kind gesture, he (Wike) was not deterred.
The NIC President, therefore, assured the State Government that the court will be maintained in good condition even as the judicial officers ensure proper administration of justice.
The National Industrial Court sitting in Akure has adjourned the case filed by the disengaged staff of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) against the company.
The ruling on the matter was postponed till October 18, 2016, after the court heard from counsels of both parties on Wednesday in Ondo State, southwest Nigeria.
The electricity employees were led by the President of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Ondo State chapter, Clement Daudu.
The staff, numbering 75 were in court to challenge their alleged disengagement since 2013 without following due process and non-payment of their severance packages.
Joined in the suit as second, third and fourth defendants were the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and the National Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO).
The ongoing industrial action of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has lingered into the third day, as the labour union insists that the Federal Government must reverse the increase in the price of petrol.
In Osun State, the NLC members, the Joint Action Front and students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile –Ife continued the peaceful protest, urging residents to reject the 145 Naira petrol pump price.
Commercial and other related activities in the ancient town went on as the protesters blocked the popular Lageere Roundabout, causing traffic for few hours whilst the protest lasted.
The workers comprising basically of members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Non-Academic Staff Unions of Universities in OAU, moved from the campus to Mayfair roundabout, distributing flyers to motorists and people on the street.
Leading the protest, the Chairman of ASUU in OAU, Dr. Caleb Aborisahde, told Channels Television that the Federal Government must rescind its decision, else the industrial disharmony would continue indefinitely.
He also urged the Federal Government to build local refineries to make the petroleum product readily available to Nigerians.
In Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State and some parts of the state in southwest Nigeria, the compliance level in the industrial action remained the same.
Human and vehicular activities were in top gear, as residents defied the stay at home order of the labour union.
While monitoring the exercise in Abeokuta, a member of the human rights groups, Yinka Folarin, blamed the Federal Government for allegedly orchestrating the division among the leadership of the organised labour unions.
Meanwhile, the old long queues at fuel stations across the metropolis before the introduction of the current 145 Naira per litre of Premium Motor Spirit popularly called petrol is fast disappearing as residents can now get the commodity at ease.
In Nigeria’s northern region, the NLC Chairman in Plateau State, Jibrin Bancir, and a member of the Civil Liberty Organisation, Steve Aluko, said that the union had continued to monitor proceedings at the state and the federal secretariats where the entrances were locked.
However, secondary school students were going about their studies, as the Trade Union Congress were not part of the ongoing strike with only the primary schools under lock and key.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government had directed all ministers, permanent secretaries and heads of government agencies to invoke the provision of “no work no pay” on any staff who is absent from work.
While the Ayuba Waba led faction of the NLC insists on carrying on with the industrial action, the Joe Ajaero led faction had reached an agreement with the government to set up a committee to resolve agitations over the new pump price of petrol.
The protesting labour leaders insisted that they would not be deterred by such directives from the government, as the union and its allies marched through the highways in the Federal Capital Territory.
Waba, who is the President of NLC, urged members of the union and other stakeholders to be willing to make sacrifices for the struggle.
However, some workers complied with the Federal Government’s ‘no work to pay’ warning, as workers at the federal secretariat and the National Hospital resumed work.
The Vice President of NLC, Peter Adeyemi, and a member of a civil society organisation, Jaye Gaskia, said that the number of those who believe in their course would not stop them from achieving success.
It is not yet clear how far the protesting workers are ready to press home their demands.
Negotiation meetings between the workers union and the Federal Government on Tuesday had ended in a deadlock, as the leadership of the NLC under Waba walked out of the meeting.
The factional leader of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Joe Ajaero, has dismissed the allegation that his faction of the union is being used to divide the NLC in order for government to have its way on the new petrol pump price.
Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Thursday, Mr Ajaero critized the manner in which the Waba-led faction of the NLC has gone about the dialogue with the federal government over the issue.
He condemned the Waba group for making decisions affecting affiliate unions without consulting the leadership of those unions.
He added that the petroleum workers belong to his group of the NLC and were key players in the issue being debated, and would not have their interests misrepresented.
He admitted that the increase in petrol price was high at 145 Naira but there were different schools of thought, which includes the demand for palliatives, while some felt the President by his credibility deserved some trust.
Mr Ajaero affirmed that the two factions of the NLC have been in existence since the 2015 election of the Nigeria Labour Congress. Although there have been efforts to reconcile them but these have not been successful.
He said that the decision of the government to negotiate with both factions of the union must have been because the issues at stake required that all stakeholders be involved.
He explained further, “The federal government realised that the issue at stake was petroleum and NUPENG made it clear that the other group cannot represent their interest, this is the NLC they belong to and they sent the invitation across.
“We got there in the spirit of joint leadership and the other group said they were not going to talk. I think we were the ones who carried ourselves to the federal government to show our division.
“Ordinarily if we had a unified position and carried it to the federal government, they would stand by it.”
The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) are confident that their nationwide indefinite strike to protest fuel price hike announced by the Federal Government would achieve its purpose.
“The strike commenced this morning as I speak to you and as we progress on the indefinite strike, it will expand itself,” Vice President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Amechi Asugwuni, said on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily.
Talks between the federal government and the Ayuba Wabba-led Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had ended in a deadlock on Tuesday evening.
The NLC delegation to the meeting, led by its President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, walked out of the negotiation following the inability of the two parties to reach an agreement and thereafter told journalists that the strike would hold on Wednesday as planned.
Mr Asugwuni, however, said that the NLC was unaware of any court order stopping it from embarking on strike.
He maintained that as far as they were concerned, the NLC had no case with the Federal Government at the Industrial Court and there has been no summon to the contrary.
Mr Asugwuni said that if there was anything of such, it would be communicated with due process followed and not based on newspaper headlines or an interview granted the media.
“If at all the AGF got the injunction as claimed, the truth of the matter is that it is total disrespect for dialogue.
“That is to tell you that even while they were with labour on the table, they had already started the court processes against our interest. So they were not sincere from the beginning,” he said.
He insisted that labour’s insistent on proceeding with the strike was in the interest of the people.
NLC Is One
Mr Asugwuni also argued that the Wabba-led faction of the NLC remains the legitimate NLC that should be recognised by the government and citizens.
“NLC is one in Nigeria. So when I see people talk about faction, they are trying to play down on Nigeria’s constitution.
“Looking at the Federal Government through the comrade governor, Adams Oshiomhole, giving recognition to an impersonator also looks criminal. As far as we are concerned, it must be discouraged.
He also questioned the credibility of the position held by the Ajaero-led faction of the NLC.
“I watched Ajaero talk and you can see his posture. It was a stage-managed interview trying to divide the opinion of people but they can’t stand.
“Nigerian Labour Congress is one and we have one office, one President who is Comrade Ayuba Wabba, and who is right there in his office.
“The just concluded May Day, the federal government was represented and they were there. So how can they turn back now? Because you want to divide the house, you start recognizing people you already know are neither here nor there.”