The Federal Government through the ministry of Labour and Employment on Tuesday presented certificates of registration to the Congress of University Academics (CONUA
), and the Nigerian Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA).
The presentation of the certificates concluded the registration process of the unions and allows them to operate side by side with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other unions. CONUA broke away from ASUU in 2018 over conflict of interest. NAMDA had also alleged that ASUU was not reflecting medical lecturers’ interest.
Chris Ngige, the minister of labour and employment, presented the certificates, gazettes and trade laws that will guide operation of the unions at a short ceremony at the ministry in Abuja. He said the unions were registered to unbundle ASUU, and will therefore, enjoy the rights and privileges accorded to other academic unions in the tertiary education system.
Ngige noted that both unions have been officially gazetted, hence entitled to all labour rights as enshrined in the International Trade Unions Convention (ITUC).
He also informed that letters have gone to security agencies, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), including the office of the accountant-general of the federation. The minister who said the unbundling of unions was legal as nobody must be forced to be part of any union, Nigige told the new unions not to be like ASUU.
“We have other unions in the university system, we don’t want you to go and start fighting with other unions. We want you to cooperate with all of them. Nobody is superior to another,” Ngige charged the unions.
Ngige also pointed out that the alleged lack of democracy, transparency and failure to render proper account of check-off dues by ASUU was part of considerations for registration of CONUA and NAMDA.
“Prior to 2020 CONUA had approached the ministry complaining of lack of democracy, transparency in the leadership of ASUU, especially in rendering proper account of their check-off dues remitted from government.
“Based on these grievances the ministry decided to register the members of CONUA to operate as a full-fledged union for which we have issued a certificate of registration and gazetting which is part of section 3:2 of the ITU. Unbundling is not new, the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, (NUP) NEPA and NNPC have been unbundled”, he explained.
The minister further hinted that the government was working to pay CONUA and NAMDA members their withheld salaries for the period ASUU strike lasted, explaining that they never partook in the industrial action in the first instance.
Niyi Sunmonu, CONUA president, while describing the presentation of the certificates as historic, assured that the union will ensure that universities are never shut down.
Sunmonu said the union will promote interest if its members while conscious of national interest. “We will embark on realistic and meaningful discussion and negotiations to get better deals without rocking or sinking the boat. There will never be a total shutdown of our universities”, he assured.