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Legal practitioners berate Gov Bello over ASUU ban

From Bayo Oyewale, Lokoja

The decision of Governor, Yahaya Bello to ban activities of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Kogi State University, Anyigba has continued to generate reactions among the people of the state and beyond.

In separate interviews with this medium, some lawyers condemned Bello’s action describing it as null and void.

Speaking in a telephone chat with our correspondent at the weekend, an Abuja-based lawyer, Eze Onyekpere said the decision of Governor Bello to proscribe the KSU chapter of the ASUU has serious legal implication, noting that since it is the right of workers to belong to any association under one umbrella any opposition can be regarded as violation of human and trade union right.

“The action of the governor is an infringement of their right to unionism and freedom of association as enshrined in our constitution. This will make ASUU to seek redress to the law court in defence of her right and it will take time for this case to be handled thereby disrupting the academic activities in the school,” he noted.

Reacting to the issue, Barr. Joel Usman gave an insight into the futile efforts of the previous government in proscribing ASUU in the past.

“In my view, Kogi State government does not have the power to proscribe or abolish ASUU, Kogi State chapter as it is a trade union, established under the trade union Act which is under the exclusive list.

“ASUU was formed in 1978. The military government of Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in 1988 and 1992 banned ASUU but later allowed to operate thereafter and that is understandable as it is a military government with a maximum rule.

“But to imagine that in a democracy, a state government will attempt to ban trade union established under the trade union Act is to say the least unfortunate as it not just an attempt to infringe on the rights of academic staff of Kogi State University’s freedom of association but that he does not possess the power to proscribe it.”

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Jibril Okutepa in his argument noted that “Legislation/proclamation by pronouncement is the hallmark of dictators and vilified infamous individuals, who unfortunately became corrupted absolutely by power.”

According to Idowu Olumodeji, “There is no law in Nigeria under which this action of His Excellency can be accommodated. For the records, legislation by proclamation was the hallmark of renowned dictators such as Benito Mousolini of Italy and Adolf Hitler of Germany. Not even under military dictatorships were proclamations deployed as tool for legislation.

“ASUU for God’s sake is a Trade Union registered under part C of the companies and allied matters Act and its proscription cannot come under the hands of the governor of any state. Not even the state House of Assembly (if indeed we have one) can by legislation purport to proscribe ASUU.

“I do not see how this rash act of the governor can resolve the imbroglio. I think impunity is on the prowl in Kogi State and the governor does not seem to have the benefit of rational legal advice.This proclamation proscribing ASUU is an exercise in futility. It is at best a classical demonstration of the Arrogance of Ignorance.”

Also, the Executive Director of Centre for Human Rights and Conflicts Resolutions (CHRCR), Comrade  Idris Miliki Abdul advised the government to look for a more diplomatic way of resolving the industrial disharmony rather than taking a step which is contrary to the constitution.

However, in swift reaction, the Chief Press Secretary to Kogi State Governor, Mrs Petra Akinti Onyegbule said, “Lecturers have been paid up to June 2017, all for work not done since they were home for about seven months. Who refunds time wasted to students? It is impossible, I went to KSU and resumed on March 12, 2001 but by July 2004, I was done with my four year course. By 2005 January, I was in NYSC camp.

“Everyone has a right to association but when the activities of any association become repugnant to justice, commonsense and such association becomes a weapon of oppression of the weakest in their sphere of influence, it becomes the duty of government to protect the weak.”

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