From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Federal Government has commended the National Industrial Court for putting the nation’s interest above other considerations in its handling of the dispute between it and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the National Association of Residents Doctors.
The commendation came through the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, SAN, who noted that the court had, on many occasions, saved the country from undue crisis through its deft handling of labour disputes.
Malami spoke through Head, Civil Appeals, Federal Ministry of Justice, Tijani Gazali (SAN) , who represented him at the special court session to mark the Industrial Court’s 2022/2023 legal year.
Speaking on the lingering issue of judges’ welfare, Malami argued that the Federal Government has done considerably well in that regard, and challenged judicial stakeholders, particularly the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to lead the fight to ensure that state governments comply with a constitutional provision guaranteeing financial autonomy for the Judiciary.
“Speaking of the court’s pronouncements in recent times, particularly in the wake of industrial actions embarked upon by both the National Association of Resident Doctors and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, suffice to say, that indeed, the legal status of any strike action, let alone a protracted one, raises very crucial questions of law, and the approach with which the judges of the National Industrial Court have dealt with the related issues, in making better provision for promoting harmonious relations between workers and their employers is quite laudable.
“Recall the court’s role in putting an end to the recent strike action embarked upon by the National Association of Resident Doctors, wherein the learned trial judge ruled amongst others, that no amount money will be enough to compensate for the loss of lives that will be occasioned in the event that the strike is sustained any further.
“Sometimes, having to prioritize on the greater good, determining merit or otherwise, by focusing on outcomes and its impact on the greater number of people in ultimately stabilizing agreements freely negotiated by employers and trade unions, is an even more unique and daunting task of the National Industrial Court.
“Also valiantly calling to bear the inviolable duty of the court, is your Lordships’ recent decision in the application for interlocutory order filed by the Federal Government in (Suit no: NICN/ABJ/270/2022), for the industrial action to be halted, pending the determination of the substantive suit seeking the court’s inquiry and adjudication on the legality or otherwise of the ongoing prolonged strike action by the Associated Staff Union of Universities.
“Learned Judge infact did well to consider the balance of convenience, in according utmost importance
importance to the value of education vis-a-vis both the short and long term effects of its deprivation on the lives, values and wellbeing of students in public universities.
“We thank your Lordships for the well, considered decision to order the Academic Staff Union of Universities to return to lecture rooms, in the paramount interest of the education and tutelage for our teeming youths and in fact, in the overall, best interest of the nation,” Malami said.