As the Academic Staff Union of Universities strike continues to linger, with the government taking them to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria for adjudication following the failure of dialogue between the union and the Federal Ministry of Education, some senior advocates of Nigeria have condemned the continued strike and asked the government to look for ways of resolving the dispute.
They also noted that the Federal Government law suit against ASUU is ill-timed and ill-conceived.
Speaking on the continued strike, Solo Akuma, SAN, said it is very unfortunate that the Federal Government and ASSU’s dispute has degenerated to a level where there is no way both sides would not be blamed for the continued impasse. He added that the two sides have not properly managed the dispute in the eyes of reasonable members of the society.
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According to him, it should be understood that what an academic staff renders is a contract of personal service hence he cannot be compelled to render a service he doesn’t want to render.
He said, “That is the basic truth; what is important is not going to court because ordinarily, the court may not grant a request compelling ASSU to go back to class when you have not met the condition upon which the person will work.
“The most important thing is to look at the issue act on it with all the amount of seriousness. The government should show good faith; maybe there is no good faith that is why ASSSU has been very pissed so let the government show good faith in the negotiation.”
As part of the good faith, Akuma asked the Federal Government to meet some of ASUU’s demand, insisting that this may make the leadership of the lecturer’s body call off the strike action it has embarked on since February 14, this year.
“I think ASSU will be made to change its stance on strike because of all this demand, we have not heard that government released any amount. Also, government said they will not pay them for the time they were on strike. Why is government paying those working in the refineries that are not functioning, so government cannot be selective but has to look at all these things and know what to do,” Akuma said.
Corroborating Akuma’s stance on the lawsuit against ASUU, the founder of Comfort Chambers, Olalekan Ojo, SAN, said that the decision of the Federal Government to drag the union before the industrial court is not the best option in the circumstance since “adjudication by the court is necessarily adversarial in nature,” explaining that government ought to resolve the dispute “via a non-adversarial method, that is through alternative dispute resolution.”
“A labour dispute of this nature is best resolved by Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism. Order 27 of the NICN (Civil Procedure) Rules 2017 clearly shows preference for ADR in labour disputes. It is my considered view that it is most inexpedient to refer the dispute to NICN.
“It is expected that the parties (ASUU and Federal Government) will respect the judgment of the NICN whichever way it goes. However it will be difficult to force the striking lecturers to go back to work on the basis of that judgment,” he said.