The National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja has fixed September 19 to deliver ruling on the suit filed by the Federal Government against the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on September 20.
Meanwhile, ASUU has given a glimmer of hope that the dispute may be resolved at a scheduled stakeholders meeting with members of the House of Representatives.
Counsel to the association, Mr. Femi Falana has informed the court that ASUU will be meeting stakeholders in the House of Representative on September 20 to ensure that the matter is resolved.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige had on behalf of the Federal Government filed the suit before the court by way of referral to resolve the issue of the ongoing strike by ASUU.
Specifically, the suit is seeking the order of court directing ASUU to call off its seven months strike.
When the case was called yesterday, counsel to the Federal government, Mr J.U.K Igwe (SAN), informed the court he has filed two motions before court on behalf of his client.
While the first motion is for an interlocutory injunction, the second is an affidavit of facts in support of the referral sent by his client.
Igwe submitted that some questions were raised with a full complement of a written address.
He informed the court that although the processess have all been served on the respondents, he is yet to receive any response from ASUU.
Igwe thereafter proceeded in urging the court to take the applications as they were ripe for hearing.
While emphasising on the importance of the case, the Federal government’s counsel stated that the issue raised in the suit is of matter of urgent and national interest as million of students have been at home since February 14.
However, counsel to ASUU, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, in his response acknowledged receiving process from the claimant and stated that they were already filing their reply in the court’s registry.
The activist lawyer added that the Minister of Labour and Employment lacked the power to ask the court in his referral to order the defendant to go back to work.
He also informed the court that ASUU will be meeting stakeholders in the House of Representative on September 20 to ensure that the matter is resolved.
Earlier, counsel to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Mr Ebuolu Adegoruwa SAN, had raised the issue of joinder and consolidation of the suit, citing section 36 of the 1999 constitution to fair hearing
He submitted that the court should invoke the cited section in SERAP’s favour to be joined in the suit as a defendant and urged the court to take his application to that effect before entertaining any other application in the suit
Adegoruwa said relief 3 of their application is for stay of further proceeding for the court to determine whether or not they will be a party in the suit.
The senior lawyer added that the process had been served on the claimant on Thursday.
He proceeded to seek to withdraw an earlier filed process dated Monday and sought to replace it with the one served on Thursday.
In his response, counsel to the claimant, Igwe objected to Adegoruwa’s application, stating that he was in receipt of the application he filed on Monday, that was served on them on Thursday by 5pm.
He also argued that it was the same application Adegoruwa was applying to withdraw.
He added that he had not received any process dated Thursday as claimed by Adegoruwa.
Adegoruwa in response stated that there was proof of service of said application on the Attorney-general of the Federation on Thursday.
Falana said he was not objecting to Adegoruwa’s application seeking to be joined as a party in the suit and for the suit to be consolidated with the other one filed by SERAP as a claimant.
The court after listening to the submissions of counsel ruled that the application was not ripe to be taken as it was served at the Attorney- general’s office on Thursday.
The court in addition stated that the application for interlocutory injunction will be taken first on September 19 by 11am.
Justice Polycarp Hamman thereafter adjourned the matter until September 19, for hearing.