The National Industrial Court (NIC) on Tuesday adjourned a suit filed by the Federal Government against the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) until March 28 for ruling.
The claimants – the Federal Government and the Minister of Education – had sued ASUU last August over the union’s strike last year, and sought the interpretation and application of the Trade Dispute Act (TDA) applicable to the circumstance.The matter before the President of the court, Justice Benedict Kanyip, came up yesterday for hearing of the defendant’s preliminary objection.
But when the matter was called, the defence counsel, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), informed the court that his process on Reply on Point of Law could not be filed on Monday at the court’s registry due to internet issue.He sought the leave of court for a short adjournment.Responding, the judge stepped down the matter until 1 p.m to enable the counsel properly file his process and serve on the claimants’ counsel.
When the court resumed, Falana applied for his motion, dated and filed on September 19, 2022, seeking the leave of court for extension and his Reply on Point of Law filed yesterday to be deemed as properly filed.The lawyer told the court that his preliminary objection was premised on jurisdiction of the court and that he relied on Order 3, Rule 6 of the TDA to argue that the Minister of Labour and Employment did not follow due process before issuing the referral to the court.
He averred that reconciliation steps were not duly followed and that the minister could approach the court, if parties of a trade union could not resolve their differences.Counsel to the Federal Government and Minister of Education, Mr. J. U. K. Igwe (SAN), said Falana’s reply, which he received five minutes before the court’s proceeding, was on reply of facts and not on law.
The government’s lawyer said all authorities cited by the counsel did not have any relevance to his application.Igwe stressed that the defence counsel should have sought the leave of court to file a counter-affidavit.He also said the National Industrial Court, with its exclusive jurisdiction on industrial matters, has the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
Igwe said the minister did not act out of the ordinary as Order 3, Rule 6 of the TDA conferred on him the power to refer the matter to NICN.The lawyer said the matter was also of national interest.He prayed the court to discountenance the defence counsel’s objection.The judge adjourned the matter till March 28 for ruling.