“Ngige should respect the jurisdiction of the Labor Court over the ASUU dispute” – Falana SAN
* Says the Minister of Labor and Productivity disregarding the NICN
Nigeria’s leading lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana has called out the Minister of Labor and Productivity for his recent comments which insinuate a disregard for the jurisdiction of the National Labor Court of Nigeria.
Recall that the federal government had referred the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to the National Labor Court of Nigeria (NICN) for judgment, following the failure of dialogue between the union and the Federal Ministry of Education.
A press release signed by the Head of Press and Public Relations of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, said the lawsuit, dated September 8, 2022, had been formally addressed to the Registrar of the National Court of Labor of Nigeria (NICN) and signed by the Minister of Labor and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.
The federal government has asked the NICN to investigate whether or not the ongoing prolonged strike by ASUU leaders and members is legal.
She asked the court to interpret in their entirety the provisions of article 18 LFN 2004, in particular in that they apply to the termination of the strike when a professional conflict is apprehended by the Minister of Labor and Employment and that a conciliation is in progress.
In a statement made available to TheNigeriaLawyer, Falana SAN, who is the attorney for ASUU, said the Minister of Labor in complete disregard of the case pending before the Court, took advantage of a presentation public of the NLC to 40 publications for making comments that are detrimental to the decision of the case.
Scholarly Silk said: “On September 8, 2022, the Minister for Labor and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, referred the industrial action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to the National Labor Court. In the said referral, the Minister arrogantly asked the Court to issue an order requiring the ASUU members to return to work. However, the federal government’s motion to compel ASUU to end the strike was argued yesterday by attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendant. At the end of the debates, the President of the Chamber, the Honorable Judge Polycap Hamman adjourned the case to Wednesday, September 21, 2022 to rule.
He continued: “In complete defiance of the National Labor Court, Dr Ngige took advantage of the NLC’s public presentation at the 40th publication titled ‘Contemporary History of Working Class Struggles’ in Abuja yesterday to conduct his own proceedings on case. According to him, although the strike is legal in Nigeria, the ASUU did not follow due process in pursuing the ongoing strike. As if that were not enough, the Minister has said that “it is anathema to use the 2009 agreement” without telling the Nigerian people that he has referred the agreement for interpretation to the National Labor Court.
the Vanguard newspaper of September 20, 2022, the Minister further stated among other things:
“Nigeria is respected in the ILO. Some people said the federal government took ASUU to court. No. I referred the matter after seven months of protracted discussions and negotiations which failed.
Falana, however, objected to the Minister’s comment that referring the dispute to court does not mean it cannot be settled outside of court.
According to Falana, the Minister’s remark smacks of lack of confidence in the NICN and called on it to withdraw the case immediately as the Court should operate in an independent mood.
He said: “Since it is clear from the above that the Minister does not have confidence in the National Labor Court, we are forced to ask him to withdraw the referral without further delay. The Minister should enable the Court to operate in an atmosphere of independence and impartiality in accordance with the provisions of Section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended. It is painful to bring the Federal Government’s attention to the case of Military Governor of Lagos State v. Chief Emeka Ojukwu (1986) 4 NWLR (Pt 18) 621 Supreme Court
“Once a dispute has arisen between a person and the government or authority, and the dispute has been brought before the court, thereby invoking the judicial powers of the state, it is the duty of the government to let the law take its course or allow the legal and judicial powers of the state… It is the duty of government to let the law take its course or allow the legal and judicial process to take its full course. The action taken by the Lagos State Government can only be construed as a demonstration of intent to preempt the court’s decision. The courts expect the utmost respect for the law from the government itself, which rules by law.
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