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ASUU: FG retracts order directing reopening of varsities

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By FUNMILAYO ADEYEMI

ABUJA- The Federal Government, through the National Universities Commission (NUC) has recalled an earlier directive to Vice Chancellors of public universities to reopen the institutions in obedience to an order of the National Industrial Court.

Recall that NUC, in a letter signed by the Commission’s Director of Finance and Accounts, Mr Sam  Onazi, on behalf of the Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, had earlier on Monday directed the reopening of universities.

A letter was however issued again to all Pro-Chancellors and Chairmen of University Councils as well as Vice-Chancellors of federal universities, on Monday, ordering the withdrawal of its earlier circular with REF: NUC/ES/138/VOL.64/135 which mandated the institutions to reopen.

The letter was titled “Re: Forwarding of Court Judgement and Enforcement of Order by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) in Suit No. NICN/ABJ/270/2022: Withdrawal of Circular ref: NUC/ES/138/VOL.64/135 dated 23rd September 2022.

“I have been directed to withdraw the National Universities Commission (NUC) Circular Ref: NUC/ES/138/Vol.64/135, and dated 23 September 2022 on the above subject. Consequently, the said Circular stands withdrawn.

“All Pro-Chancellors and Chairmen of Governing Councils, as well as Vice Chancellors of Federal Universities are to please note further development and information would be communicated to all relevant stakeholders,” the letter read.

The Federal Government had issued a circular to all Vice-Chancellors of public universities and attached a “self-explanatory letter Ref. FME/LU/HQ/S/1094/22/T/29, dated 23rd September, 2022 and the Enrolment Order of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) on the above referenced Suit, as directed by the Honourable Minister of Education.”

However, in another letter retracting the directive, Onazi, on behalf of the Executive Secretary of the NUC, said the initial circular stood withdrawn and that all Pro-Chancellors, VCs of Federal Universities were to wait for further developments or information which would be communicated to them in due course.

Recall that ASUU had commenced an indefinite strike since February 14, 2022 over grievances relating to funding for universities.

Other demands are arrears of earned allowances to its members and discrepancies in the implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payrolls and Information System IPPIS , among other issues.

Several meetings between ASUU and the Federal Government have ended in a deadlock due to non- agreement in the demands

The federal government went to court to challenge the strike but the union insisted it would not resume but however appealed the court’s ruling.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the government through its counsel, James Igwe, prayed the court for an interlocutory injunction restraining ASUU from taking further steps as regards the strike, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

The counsel to the Federal Government James Igwe on Wednesday prayed the court to order the striking varsity lecturers to in the interim, return to work, pending the determination of the substantive suit before the court.

NAN reports that Igwe maintained that the matter was not only urgent, but of a great national interest as millions of students have been at home for over seven months.

“Sections 47 of the Trade Dispute Act, TDA, gives your lordship the power to direct that no worker should continue to embark on strike pending when the applications are heard and determined,”,
Igwe argued.

Igwe said there was need for the matter to be expeditiously determined to enable university students to return to school, adding that failure to call off the strike would cause irreparable damage to not only the students but also to the nation.

According to him, since the dispute between FG and lectures was already before the court for adjudication, it would be proper and in the interest of justice for the strike to be suspended.

In his ruling, Justice Hamman held that the application was meritorious and deserved to be granted by the court.

While dismissing objections ASUU raised through its lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, the court held that the strike action was detrimental to public university students that cannot afford to attend private tertiary institutions.

“The balance of convenience tilts in favour of the applicant.

“I hold that this application is meritorious and this application is granted”, Justice Hamman ruled.

The court, thereafter, issued an order, restraining ASUU, “whether by themselves, members, agents, privies or howsoever called, from taking further steps and doing any act in continuance of the strike action, pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed.”

NAN reports that ASUU had since filed 14 grounds of appeal challenging the order. (NAN)

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