From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, New York
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has advised the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), to obey the National Industrial Court ruling and call off its ongoing nationwide strike, while negotiations is ongoing.
He gave the advise while fielding questions from journalists at the Federal Government of Nigeria, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and European Union: HighLevel Side Event on the Margins of the 77th of the United Nations General Assembly and the Official Launch of the Nigeria Integrated National Financing Framework Report (NIFF).
The court had on Wednesday ordered ASUU to call off its ongoing nationwide strike, pending the determination of a suit filed by the Federal Government.
In a bid to end the strike amid the outcry sparked by the strike which has been ongoing for over seven months, the government had taken the union to court.
The government filed an application for an interlocutory injunction, seeking an order of the court restraining ASUU from further continuing with the strike.
Delivering a ruling on the government’s application, Justice Polycarp Hamman restrained ASUU from continuing with the strike and ordered that the case file should be returned to the president of the Industrial Court for reassignment to another judge, as he is a vacation judge.
According to him, the strike is detrimental to public university students who cannot afford to attend private tertiary institutions, and the Trade Dispute Act mandates workers not to embark on strike once an issue has been referred to the industrial court.
Ngige while responding to a question on how soon ASUU will call off the strike with the ruling, he said: “I’m not ASUU but the maximum in law is that when there is a court judgment or ruling or order you must first obey and then we can apply for an appeal if you so desire or apply for stay that is stay of execution.
“So the maximum in law, jurisprudence and everything about the law, is that you obey the court’s ruling, judgment or order, no matter how bad. The qualifying thing is that no matter how bad and no matter how you disagree with it, you first obey. Like the military people say, obey before complain.
“So we expect them to get back to the classrooms but that doesn’t foreclose negotiations, the negotiations should be on as a matter of fact, it will be on officially and non officially. For example, the House of Representatives had invited us to come and brief them. And together, they are stakeholders. You heard Mr President said to the committee of Pro-Chancellors when they visited him, that he would do consultation as per the two request on putting an icing on the cake on the government offer to ASUU members and the issue of resettlement fund to cushion the effect of the “no work no pay” situation they found themselves in.
“So, President will look at it, the House of Reps are stakeholders, Ministers we are not only stakeholders, we are advisers to Mr. President by the provisions of the Constitution, Section 5 of the Constitution and 147, that appoints ministers one from each state of the Federation, and we hold regular meetings with him, so we are his chief advisers.
“So, we will interface with the House of Representatives and all of us collectively will advise Mr. President.”