The Bauchi State Government has filed criminal charges against officials of the Association of Secondary School Teachers, ASSUST, led by Abdullahi Tanko, over the industrial action embarked upon by the association last month.
Tanko and 13 others were sued by the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice through a lawyer, Alhamdu Sabo. Sabo told the court that, "in February the accused persons criminally conspired and operated illegally by closing government secondary and primary schools under the state Ministry of Education."
He added that "the accused purportedly closed down the schools by harassing and intimidating teachers and persecuted those that were not willing to join the strike." The government’s counsel further told the court that the association was not a legally registered trade union, hence its opertation in the state was illegal and contrary to Sections 96,100(c), 104 and 114 of the Penal Code and Section 267 of the Bauchi State law on strike.
Then he asked the court to restrain the accused persons from parading themselves as leaders of ASSUST. The government also demanded that all the teachers go back to their classes.
Sabo said: "Henceforth, no teacher should listen to any instructions from the union. Every teacher should fully resume duties because the union is not legally recognized by the state. The accused is thereby disallowed from giving any directive to teachers, pending the determination of the substantive suit."
Counsel to the teachers, Joseph Kuleve, filed a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit. Kuleve urged the court not to entertain the suit, saying that only the National Industrial Court could entertain the matter even as there was no valid case against the defendants.
He argued that everybody was entitled to exercise his or her fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution and asked the court to strike out the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The presiding Chief Magistrate, Abdullahi Kundak, adjourned the suit till March 6, for hearing on the preliminary objection filed by the defendants.