A human rights advocate, Femi Falana, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)’s lawyer, has faulted the National Industrial Court’s order that striking lecturers return to work, citing the violation of due process.

Speaking on Channels TV on Friday, Mr Falana said President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime did not follow the standard procedure of presenting its case before the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) before referring the matter to the court.

He also clarified that the court is an appellate chamber of the IAP, meaning its jurisdiction is within hearing appeals on cases that the IAP has determined.

“This is the first time in the history of that court that we have been told that the minister can refer a case to the National Industrial Court without going through the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP),” Mr Falana stressed.

He added, “Because the NIC under the current labour law regime in Nigeria is an appellate chamber of the IAP. So, it is an appellate court. It is only when individuals are sacked that you want to challenge your employer or there are intra or inter-union disputes that you approach the National Industrial Court.”

Mr Falana also said the court had itself repeatedly warned the labour minister that cases taken to it regarding trade disputes must originate from the IAP, adding that the decision would be appealed.

“We made clear to the court and submitted more than six cases where the same court as warned the minister consistently that you cannot come here without originating your case in the IAP if it relates to trade disputes,” Mr Falana explained. “The court so found that this is a trade dispute and that there was no reference to the IAP, but the court in its wisdom decided to intervene, and the only way you can show your dissatisfaction is to approach the appeal court, which ASUU has decided to do.”

Mr Buhari’s regime had sought an interlocutory injunction from the court to force ASUU to call its strike, with Polycarp Hamman granting its prayer.

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