The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), today, held that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, acted rightly by referring the dispute between the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the Federal Government directly to the Industrial Court, pursuant to Section 17 of the Trade Dispute Act, TDA, CAP T8 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, LFN, 2004.
NICN also dismissed the motion by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, seeking to be joined in the suit between the Federal Government and ASUU over the latter’s recent prolonged strike action.
The claimants, the Federal Government and the Minister of Education, had dragged ASUU before the court in August 2022 over the then strike, for interpretation and application of some aspects of the Trade Dispute Act, TDA.
The matter was slated for ruling before Justice Benedict Kanyip, on the preliminary objection raised by the defendant.
The defendant’s counsel, Mr Femi Falana(SAN), argued that the Minister, who referred the matter to the court, lacked the power to do so.
The claimants counsel, Mr J. U. K. Igwe (SAN), in his submission, argued that the Minister did not act out of the ordinary as Order 3 Rule 6 of the TDA conferred on him the power to refer the matter to NICN.
Ruling on the matter, the presiding judge, Justice Benedict Kanyip, held that the defendants did not show how the Minister’s referral offended Section 17 of the TDA or how he assumed the role of a judge in his own case.
He said; “The claimants affidavit is valid and the defendant’s prayer that the referral of the claimant be dismissed, fails, and I so rule.
“As to whether the referral is invalid, the Minister properly referred the matter to this court. The referral is valid.”
Kanyip dismissed the motion for joinder by SERAP for lack of locus standi, saying they are meddlers, interlopers and busybodies.
He awarded a cost of N100,000 against the party seeking to be joined, payable by their counsel to the claimants within 30 days.
He warned that failure to pay the fine will amount to 10 percent interest per annum, pending when it will be paid.
Justice Kanyip adjourned the matter to 2nd, 3rd and 4th of May for further hearing.