The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Friday ordered the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to immediately call off its eight-month strike as a precondition for granting the union’s request to appeal a similar ruling of the National Industrial Court, (NIC).
The appellate court gave the order in a ruling on an application by ASUU seeking permission to appeal against the order of the NIC which asked the striking lecturers to resume work.
The three-member panel led by Justice Hamma Barka in a ruling held that the permission to file the appeal was only on the condition that the union would resume work immediately.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the applicant shall immediately abide and obey the order of the interlocutory injunction made by the lower court.
“Upon the immediate complaince and return to work, to their duty post as in order one above, leave is hereby granted to the applicant to appeal against the decision of the interlocutory order of the lower court made against it.
“The applicant shall upon the immediate complaince with the orders above, by complying with the order of interlocutory injunction made against it by the lower court, immediately, today, Oct. 7 and returning to work, we shall allow seven days from today, within which to file the notice and grounds of appeal at the registry of the lower court.”
In his lead ruling, Justice Barka noted that the substance of the application bordered on whether or not the Court of Appeal could grant the applicant’s application for leave to appeal the ruling of NIC.
Justice Barka expressed worries that ASUU had not obeyed the order of the lower court.
“Worrisome is the disobedience of the order of the National Industrial Court”, that a senior counsel like Femi Falana who is known for his advocacy for obedience to court orders could not convinced his client to comply with a simple order of the court.
However, the presiding Justice stated that the applicant’s application goes to the constitutional guaranteed power of the Court of Appeal to hear the grievances of the aggrieved persons from the lower court.
He said although, the applicant had breached the order of court by its disobedience , “I am inclined to grant the leave to appeal ” sought by the applicant.
” I challenge Falana to impress on his client to obey the order of the lower court because this court can not be moved without compliance with the order.” he ruled.
The court held that should the applicant fail to comply with order one of the ruling today and return to work, the leave hereby granted to the applicant to file the appeal shall be automatically vacated.
The court held that failure to adhere to the order, would make the appeal incompetent before Court of Appeal.
The court also ruled that ASUU, having withdrawn the application seeking a stay of execution of the ruling of the lower court, the application was hereby struck out.
The lower court had on Sept. 21, granted an interlocutory order following an application to that effect by the Federal Government, ordering members of the union to return to work pending the resolution of the dispute between the two combatants.
Miffed by the ruling, ASUU headed to the appellate court to seek redress.
At the Appeal Court, ASUU filed an application dated Sept. 28, seeking the leave of court to file an appeal against the industrial court order.
The union had also filed an application seeking a stay of execution of the ruling of the NIC ordering it’s members to return to work.
Falana, however withdrew the application for stay saying that he had taken the decision in consultation with his clients.
The Federal Government, through it’s counsel, Mr James Igwe, SAN, however, opposed the application and asked that the court should rather dismiss it on the grounds that both parties had joined issues.
Igwe had also urged the court not to grant the application seeking leave to appeal the order of the lower court.
He premised his argument on the grounds that ASUU had come to the court with dirty hands.
According to him, the cannot be seeking a remedy in court when the have refused to obey the order of another court.
Speaking with newsmen, Igwe said that the ruling of the appellant court was a well considered one as the justices considered the plight of both the nation and the students.
He expressed optimism that the union would obey the court’s order.
Speaking on behalf of ASUU, Mr Mashall Abubakar said that the decision of the court would be conveyed to his clients and they would be advised appropriately.
ASUU started the industrial action in February citing failure of government to comply with agreements reached as it’s reason for the action.