Nigerian foremost Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on Sunday described as illegal the circular issued by the Federal Government threatening to begin to execute a no-work-no-pay policy against the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
The SAN asked the Federal Government to immediately withdraw the “illegal circular” which he said was in violation of various judgments of the Supreme Court.
He said the Federal Government was “not properly advised “in resorting to the desperate measure”.
“Otherwise, it would have realized that even under the defunct military junta the application of ‘no work no pay’ rule, threat to eject lectures living in official quarters, promulgation of a decree which made strike in schools a treasonable offence and the proscription of ASUU did not collapse any of the strikes called by ASUU,” the senior lawyer added.
Faulting the justification of the strike with the Federal Government’s reference to section 43 (1) of the Trade Disputes Act, Falana said that going by the decision of the apex court in Olufeagba & Ors v Abdul-Raheem in 2010, the Vice-Chancellors lacked the power to seize the salaries of the striking university teachers as directed by the Federal Government.
He said, “The implication of the judgment is that a university lecturer whose employment enjoys statutory flavour cannot be disciplined or sanctioned without being afforded the right of fair hearing by the Governing Council.
“With respect to the current ASUU strike, no university governing council has accused any lecturer of misconduct to warrant the seizure of salaries and allowances.
”Therefore, the Federal Government, acting through the National Universities Commission, lacks the vires to direct Vice-Chancellors to seize the salaries and allowances of striking lecturers.
“That is a decision which can only be taken by the Governing Council of each university after due process must have been observed. If the Federal Government disagrees with our position it is at liberty to pray the National Industrial Court for an interpretation of the application of the ‘no work no pay’ rule to lecturers for participating in the ASUU strike.”
He insisted that “the latest strike embarked upon by ASUU has complied with the provisions of section 31 (6) of the Trade Disputes (Amendment) Act, 2005”.
He added, “Since the law does not punish acts which are lawful in any democratic society section 43(1) of the Trade Disputes Act cannot be invoked to justify the seizure of the salaries and allowances of members of the ASUU who have decided to participate in an industrial action that is legal in every material particular.”
Asking the Federal Government to withdraw its threat, Falana cited the case of Attorney-General of Lagos State v Attorney-General of the Federation when the Supreme Court in 2005 held that the Federal Government lacked the power to seize the funds accruing to the local government in Lagos state without an order of a court.
He stated, “Since the seizure of the salaries and allowances of academic staff of federal universities for participating in an industrial action called by the ASUU cannot be legally carried out by any Vice-Chancellor without a court order the Federal Government is advised to withdraw the illegal circular.
“In addition, the Federal Government should commit itself to the faithful implementation of the 2017 FG/ASUU Agreement to enable ASUU to call off the strike without any further delay.”