The break with the Universities Academic Staff Union (ASUU) was officially sealed Tuesday when the federal government finalized the registration of two newly registered academic unions at universities.
The new unions are the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA).
The Nigerian News Agency (NAN) reports that Labor and Employment Minister Chris Ngige handed over registration certificates and an official gazette to the unions on Tuesday.
The minister also said that the government was already working on the modalities to release eight months’ salaries withheld from its members.
Ngige had previously announced the registration of both unions on October 4, 2022, while the dispute with striking ASUU members was in a labor court.
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He said CONUA and NAMDA will co-exist with ASUU in Nigerian universities.
CONUA is an ASUU splinter group that was formed at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), following a leadership crisis that rocked the institution’s chapter of ASUU during the selection process for OAU’s 12th substantive vice chancellor in 2016.
After irreconcilable differences, some aggrieved ASUU members, led by the current CONUA National Coordinator, ‘Niyi Sunmonu, formed CONUA and applied for registration with the government in 2018.
“By doing this, both unions are officially recognized and have registered to separate the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the National Association of Resident Physicians (NARD),” Ngige told CONUA and NAMDA leaders on Tuesday. .
He said that both unions have been officially published, therefore they are entitled to all labor rights enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution and the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention.
Ngige said that ASUU’s alleged lack of democracy, transparency and proper accountability of discount dues, both to its members and to the government, culminated in the rise of the new unions.
“Before 2020, CONUA had approached the ministry complaining about the lack of democracy, transparency in the ASUU leadership, especially in the proper accountability of its government-remitted check quotas,” he said. “Based on these complaints, the ministry decided to register CONUA members to operate as a full-fledged union for which we have issued an official registration and publication certificate that is part of section 3:2 of the ITUC.”
The minister also said that the federal government was working on modalities for the payment of withheld salaries from CONUA and NAMDA members for the duration of the ASUU strike.
The minister said that it would be an injustice if they were victimized because they never participated in the strike in the first instance.
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Speaking, the National Coordinator of CONUA, Mr. Sunmonu, praised the minister for the presentation of the certificate, saying that “now that CONUA has received official endorsement through the presentation of the certificate, the era of incessant strikes in the university system is over”.
Sunmonu, who claimed that the arrogance of the ASUU leadership was what gave rise to CONUA, also protested against the continued sending of its members’ discount dues to ASUU.
Sunmonu said, “Today is a historic day and it is exciting to be back in this great Ministry at the conclusion of the final phase of CONUA’s registration, which is marked by the collection of certificates,” he said.
“We thank the Minister for Labor and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, and his remarkable team for finalizing CONUA’s registration by issuing the union’s registration certificate to us today.”
“At CONUA, our primary objective at all times has been to promote the well-being of our members, while constantly being mindful of the overriding national interest… With this full registration, we assure Nigerians that we will embark on meaningful and realistic discussions and negotiations with the federal government and all other interested parties on how we can get a better deal for college professors.”
NAMDA President Ali Ramat also praised the minister and his team for the presentation of the certificate.
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