ASUU Takes Legal Action Against Government for Withholding Salaries During Strikes

ASUU Files Lawsuit Against Federal Government Over Discrimination

ASUU Takes Legal Action Against Government for Withholding Salaries During Strikes
Discrimination Allegations: ASUU Sues Federal Government Over Salary Withholding


Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has taken legal action against the Federal Government, accusing it of discriminatory, unfair, and illegal treatment towards members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Falana, on behalf of ASUU, filed a lawsuit against the Minister of Labour and Employment, the Attorney-General of the Federation, and the Accountant-General of the Federation.

The lawsuit, filed as suit number NICN/ABJ/152/2023, was submitted yesterday. Falana’s primary goal is to seek the court’s determination on the legality of the government’s decision to withhold the salaries of ASUU members from February to October 2022, given that salaries were paid to other unions during their respective strikes.

In the suit, Falana poses two key questions to the court: firstly, whether the decision to withhold ASUU members’ salaries during the strike period is discriminatory and illegal, considering that salaries were paid to members of other unions during their strikes; and secondly, whether ASUU members are entitled to the immediate payment of their salaries for the months of February to October 2022.

The suit, in part, highlights the multifaceted duties performed by lecturers, including seminars, research, and teaching. It emphasizes that even during strikes, the provision of educational services, such as research and community service, continues in public universities across Nigeria.

The lawsuit stems from ASUU’s declaration of a trade dispute in February 2022 due to the government’s failure to implement agreements. The industrial action, which lasted until October 2022, affected the teaching component of lecturers’ responsibilities. However, the court and the Court of Appeal subsequently ordered the restoration of teaching activities.

Falana specifically accuses the Minister of Labour and Employment of instructing the Accountant-General of the Federation not to pay ASUU members for the duration of the strike. He points out that similar strikes by the Joint Health Staff Union and the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors resulted in the payment of salaries to their members. Thus, the decision to withhold ASUU members’ salaries is deemed discriminatory.

The lawsuit underscores the importance of equal treatment and opportunity in employment and occupation, citing Section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 2004. It argues that the defendants’ refusal to pay ASUU members’ salaries while paying other unions is in violation of these anti-discrimination provisions.

ASUU seeks several reliefs from the court, including declarations that the government’s decision to pay other unions while withholding ASUU members’ salaries is discriminatory and illegal. They also request an order mandating the immediate payment of withheld salaries from February to October 2022.

The lawsuit signifies ASUU’s determination to address the alleged discriminatory treatment and secure the rights of its members. The outcome of the legal battle will likely have far-reaching implications for the future of fair labor practices and equality in Nigeria’s educational sector.

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