The federal government of Nigeria has issued certificates of registration to two newly registered unions in the nation’s University system.
The two unions, the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA) and the Congress of University Academics (CONUA), are breakaway unions from the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU).
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, made the presentation on Tuesday in Abuja on behalf of the Nigerian government.
Addressing the lecturers, Dr. Ngige called on the unions to operate fully as trade unions across Universities in the country without fear of intimidation by any other existing unions in the country’s University system.
He said that letters have been sent to the security agencies, to accord them all rights given to other unions, for their meetings, AGMs and delegates assembly.
“Same has been done to all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, including the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, so that your check-off dues will be deducted from source and given to you”.
Recalling the events that brought about the two unions, Ngige said a group of teachers in the university system applied to the Labour Ministry in 2018 to be registered as the Congress of Nigeria University Academics and the Ministry set up a committee, which did their work and by early 2019, recommended that the union should be registered.
“Nevertheless, we did not register the union because we wanted to make sure that we are on the right path.
“By 2020, the request came back and this time around, they explained that they had been expelled from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and therefore denied protection. And that the expulsion was as a result of their unwillingness to go the way of ASUU.
“They complained of lack of democratisation inside ASUU and lack of transparency in the management of finances of ASUU, just like the Ministry pointed out to ASUU that it has not audited its accounts.
“As of the time they were saying this in 2020, ASUU had not audited its accounts for four years”, the Minister said.
According to Ngige, the Ministry decided to register members of CONUA to operate as a full-fledged union and gave them letter of recognition.
By the processes of the law, after the letters of the union is given, you gazette that union. It is part of Section 3 (2) of the Act and this section permits the Minister to regroup an existing union when its functionality is no longer guaranteed “and that is what we have exercised with CONUA.”
Also clarifying the position of the government in registering NAMDA, Ngige said the medical doctors in academics, including pre-clinical teachers complained that they were not being protected by ASUU and applied for registration as a union.
According to him, the medical teachers said ASUU negotiations do not cover them, in terms of their welfare, conditions of service and allowances.
He said that a committee was set up to look into the complains and government saw the need to streamline some of the contentious issues and adopted the committee’s recommendations that they come out of ASUU and have their own association.
“This is not an abnormal thing. We have unbundled the Nigerian union of Pensioners in 2018. We now have contributory pensioners and pensioners in the public service agencies. Unbundling is dynamic. It is change. Change is constant”, he said.
Receiving the certificate on behalf of his members, the National President of CONUA, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, said “with this complete registration, we assure Nigerians that we shall embark on meaningful and realistic discussions and negotiations with the Federal Government and all other stakeholders on how we can get a better deal for University lecturers and indeed for better working of the entire system without necessarily rocking and sinking the boat”.
Dr. Sunmonu however, appealed to the Minister to intervene on the issues of the controversy of who collects the check off dues of his members.
Speaking in the vein, the President of NAMDA, Dr. Nosa Orhua represented by the First Vice President, Dr Ali Ramat, commended the Minister for the presentation of the certificates promising that “never again will there be total shut down of the system”.
He lamented what he called locking out medical students for eight months, adding that getting good Doctors with this development will be practically impossible.
Both CONUA and NAMDA solicited the Minister’s intervention in getting the eight months salary of their members who they said were not part of the ASUU industrial action for that period.
The process of fully registering the unions commenced three months ago during the protracted industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities ASUU, which grounded academic activities in Nigerian Universities for eight months.
With two more unions in the University system other than ASUU, stakeholders in the industry believe that the government has effectively clipped the wings of ASUU and finally broken its monopoly in Nigerian Universities.