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FG orders Vice Chancellors to reopen schools

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By FUNMILAYO ADEYEMI

ABUJA- The Federal Government has ordered Vice-Chancellors in universities to re-open schools and to allow students resume lectures.

This is contained in a letter signed by the Director, Finance and Accounts of National Universities Commission (NUC), Mr Sam Onazi, on behalf of the Executive Secretary of the commission, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed in Abuja on Monday.

The letter which was addressed to all vice-chancellors; Pro-Chancellors and chairmen of governing councils of federal universities, called on them to re-open the universities.

“Ensure that ASUU members immediately resume/commence lectures; restore the daily activities and routines of the various University campuses”, the letter reads.

Recall that ASUU had embarked on strike since February 14 to press home the demand for improved funding for universities, a review of salaries for lecturers, among other issues.

Several meetings between ASUU and the Federal Government have ended in 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 appeal the court’s ruling.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that on Sept. 21, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) in Abuja ordered ASUU to suspend its seven-month-old strike.

The judge, Polycarp Hamman, gave the order  in a ruling on the federal government’s application for an interlocutory injunction against the ongoing ASUU strike.

The federal government’s counsel, James Igwe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had filed the application seeking the court’s order restraining ASUU from continuing with the strike pending the determination of the suit initiated through a referral by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.

Hamman, in granting the order on Wednesday, dismissed ASUU’s objection to the application.

The union’s lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, had urged the court to dismiss the federal government’s application, and instead, grant an accelerated hearing of the main suit.

Hamman agreed with the government that irreparable damage was being done to the lives of students rendered idle by the ongoing strike.

He said not granting the injunction would only cause additional damage to the ambitions of young Nigerians.

He cited examples of the National Youth Service Corps and employment in Nigeria’s armed forces where age is a requirement for participation and employment.

He also said the Trade Dispute Act prohibits parties from engaging in an industrial action when disputes have been referred to the industrial court, the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) or when a conciliator has been appointed.

Falana, ASUU’s lawyer, had argued that the affidavit filed by Ikechukwu Wamba, a legal officer at the Ministry of Labour and Employment in support of the application should not be admitted as the deponent was neither a member of the university community nor part of any meetings held with the union.

But the judge Hamman disagreed, saying Wamba as a legal officer and a member of management at the labour ministry had access to the official documents of the negotiations as well as offering legal advice to the minister.

The judge also disagreed with Falana’s submission that the government has not made necessary moves to curtail the strike since it commenced in February.

He said pieces of evidence from meetings with the government which began days after the strike until 1 September proved negotiations had been ongoing.

However, addressing reporters after proceedings, ASUU’s counsel, Edorjeh Edo, said the union has options and will study them for further actions.

“There are quite a number of actions open to the union. We will study with the legal team and then we will adopt the most appropriate action,” he said.

ASUU accused the federal government of reneging on a 2009 agreement on matters such as increased funding of universities and increasing lecturers’ salaries. (NAN)

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