The Federal Government has moved to register a rival union to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as it has given the committee responsible for the consideration of a request for registration of Congress of University Academic (CONUA) 4 weeks to submit its report.
This is coming as members of ASUU, who have continued with their 10-month old strike, are scheduled to resume their negotiations with the Federal Government on Friday, November 20, 2020.
This hint was given by the Minister for Labour and Employment, Sen Chris Ngige, on Thursday, November 19, 2020, when the leadership of Congress of University Academics (CONUA), led by its National Coordinator, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, paid him a courtesy visit in his office in Abuja.
While receiving a delegation of CONUA’s leadership whose membership is drawn from university lecturers opposed to ASUU, Ngige commended them for initiating the process to register the union and assured them that their application for registration as trade union would be treated with fairness and without fear or favour.
The minister expressed regret for the long strike by ASUU, saying that it had impacted negatively on the educational development of the country.
Ngige said, “We are receiving you in audience formally today in this ministry. We have the right to receive associations of persons that are workers, whether we have registered them or not, just as you have the right to apply for registration which is the lawful thing to do.
“We have the right to receive and hold meetings with you. The journey to have you registered has just started. You have done the right thing by applying and this ministry has also done the right thing by processing your registration.’’
“The review of your application for registration is ongoing. I have put up a committee to look into that review. I will ask the committee to wind up its work. We are giving them four weeks from today to turn in their report to the ministry. Part of our job here is to register unions; it is also part of our job to make sure that unions that are not functional are helped.
On his part, Sunmonu pointed out that CONUA was enjoying large followership with many universities registering more members by the day since it came on board in February 2018.
While pleading with the minister to use his good office to ensure the registration of the association as an independent academic union, he said that CONUA was established due to irreconcilable differences between its members and ASUU.
Sunmonu said, “CONUA members are not members of ASUU and we are not ready to be part of ASUU due to irreconcilable differences and modes of operation.’’
“ASUU no longer represent our interest and aspirations. CONUA fits to be described as a group of people who are independent academics and who have decided to come together to form a union committed to the advancement of education in Nigeria.”
He condemned the prolonged strike in the university system and encouraged unions to rather engage the government constructively rather than down tools every time, considering the negative effect of that on the educational system. He said that CONUA, if finally registered, would always constructively engage the government.
He said, “The government cannot see what we see and we will not see what the government sees, but when we have our mind made up in a constructive manner, we will come to a reasonable agreement to further progress our universities and for the advancement of the nation.
“We want to ensure a seamless and uninterrupted academic calendar in the university system. “This strike has done more damage than good. As academics and researchers, we are supposed to have evaluated the effect of the strike on our institutions, especially on our collective psychic.
“From the preliminary report that we have, the strike has done more harm than good to our universities. Nigerian Universities should rank comfortably with any other university in any part of the world.”
It can be recalled that ASUU has been on strike since March 2020 due to disagreement with the Federal Government over the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) amongst other issues, which the university lecturers said contravenes the policy on autonomy for Nigerian universities.