Falana Faults FG’s Effort To Ban ASUU

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Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has faulted the federal government’s efforts to ban and proscribe the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Falana in a statement issued yesterday said to ban ASUU the Government will have to amend the fundamental right of citizens to freedom of association enshrined in Chapter 4 of the Constitution.

According to him, a special amendment is required in which there is a need for the resolution of four fifths of members of the National Assembly and approved by two thirds majority of members of not less than 24 Houses of Assembly.

He added that the federal government will also have to withdraw its ratification of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention No 87 of the International Labour Organisation.

“Under the current democratic dispensation the fundamental right of citizens to form or belong to political parties and trade unions is guaranteed by section 40 of the Constitution and Article 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.

“As a member of the committee of civilised nations the Government of Nigeria has ratified the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention No 87 of the International Labour Organisation Convention. It is pertinent to note that parties to the Convention are obligated to ensure the right of both employers and employees to join an organisation of their choice and free from any influence of authorities which belong to the core principles of the ILO.

“In the case of Olaniyan v University of Lagos (1986) 4 NWLR (Pt 34) 162 at 173, Ayo Irikefe CJN (as he then was). In my view, constitutionally entrenched provisions, particularly those safeguarding individual rights should not, save in a fascist system, be lightly trampled upon.

“Therefore, to ban ASUU the Government will have to amend the fundamental right of citizens to freedom of association enshrined in Chapter 4 of the Constitution. It is a special amendment which requires the resolution of four fifths of members of the National Assembly and approved by two thirds majority of members of not less than 24 Houses of Assembly.  

“In addition, the Federal Government will withdraw its ratification of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention No 87of the International Labour Organisation. The anti-democratic forces urging the Buhari administration to ban ASUU should be made to realise that a democratic government lacks the competence to abrogate the fundamental rights of citizens outside the ambit of the Constitution.

He said those who are berating ASUU for alleged recalcitrance should advise the federal government to accord priorities to the funding of tertiary education. “After all, following the directive of the federal government the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has just released $235m to foreign airlines to facilitate foreign travels by a few privileged citizens. And whereas the federal government budgeted the sum of N443bn for the so called fuel subsidy in the 2022 Appropriation Act the fund has been increased to N4 trillion via a Supplementary Appropriation Bill approved by members of both chambers of the National Assembly. It is interesting to note that the details of the humongous sum were not scrutinised by the federal legislators.

“As if that was not enough the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed has disclosed that fuel subsidy will gulp N6.5 trillion this year alone. And very soon, the National Assembly will approve another supplementary budget of N2.5 trillion for the monumental fraud. But when it comes to funding tertiary education the federal government is said to be broke!”, Falana said.

Falana noted that instead of embracing the fascist option of prescribing ASUU the federal government should commit itself to the faithful implementation of collective agreements reached with ASUU which are enforceable by virtue of the relevant provisions of the Trade Disputes Act.

“For instance, in the 1992 and 2009 FG/ASUU Agreements it was expressly stated that the revenue realised from the sale of the properties of the Federal Government abandoned in Lagos when the Federal Capital was moved to Abuja would be channelled towards the funding of tertiary education in the country. But the Federal Government has turned round to sell the properties to private individuals and corporate bodies at low giveaway prices.

“Some of the properties were sold to powerful individuals and corporate bodies including a multinational corporation. Since a number of the properties have not been sold the federal government should turn them over to the universities in line with the terms of the FG/ASUU Collective Agreements.

“It may also interest concerned citizens to know that pursuant to the 1992 Agreement the management of the universities had registered and established consultancy firms to handle jobs by professionals in the academic community in the country. But the university councils peopled by government appointees prefer to farm out multi million Naira contracts to contractors nominated by the ruling political parties. Through such dubious arrangements the meagre fund earmarked for capital projects in the universities is diverted as a number of the projects are abandoned. It is on record that some cases of large scale corruption reported to the anti-graft agencies were not allowed to be investigated by the Federal Government.

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