Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Federal government has formally registered two new university unions, the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA).
With the granting of registration to the two unions, Nigerian Universities now has three academic unions, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), CONUA, and NAMDA.
Government said that with the registration granted the two unions, they are now entitled to all rights and privileges ascribed to unions and will be given access to those rights by the government and university authorities.
While conveying the approval to the leadership of the two unions at a meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige said the move will help liberalize the academic sub-sector and allow for freedom for university workers.
“In view of the above, I Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige, in the exercise of the power conferred on me as the Honourable Minister of Labour & Employment, do hereby approve the registration of – Congress of Nigeria University Academics (CONUA), and Nigeria Association of Medical and Dental Lecturers in Academics (NAMDA)”
“The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment in the discharge of her mandate in the management of employment relationships and the administration of Trade Unions to ensure harmonious industrial relations system in the nation has decided to approve the registration of two (2) more Trade unions in the Nigerian University academic sub sector. The University sub-sector is a major development plank of any nation’s Socio economic growth”.
Ngige said that NAMDA include those Medical Doctors doing Pre- clinical teaching of basic medical courses and Honorary Consultants teaching clinical students in the universities.
“In view of this registration, you are entitled to all rights and privileges acruable to union of similar status which include right to receive check off dues of members. You can now go back to your institutions and open the doors of your classrooms to teach the students”.
While explaining the government decision, Ngige said that in the last eight months, the classrooms in the nation’s public Universities have been shut and students kept at home by the strike action embarked upon by ASUU.He lamented that the ugly situation has persisted despite series of engagements to resolve the trade dispute by the federal government through the Ministry of Education. “However, all efforts at conciliation failed resulting in the transmission of the trade dispute to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) for adjudication in line with the statutory trade dispute resolution processes. At the NICN, an Interlocutory Injunction Order was obtained asking the Union to get back to work while the substantive suit is being heard; an order ASUU leadership and members refused to obey. Interestingly, a lot of university teachers in the public universities had indicated their willingness to get back to work while negotiations continue,” he said.
While justifying the decision, Ngige narrated the experience in some of the institutitions where teachers willing to resume classes were obstructed by ASUU officials.
He also said it was worthy to note that some Medical Doctors who are teachers in the various Medical Schools/College of Medicine had carried on with teaching in the Universities of Maiduguri, Bauchi, and Sokoto and had graduated their new Doctors in the midst of the ASUU strike.
He said that these groups of Lecturers had since been applying to have their own academic associations registered as trade Unions to organise their members because they do not share in the models, objectives, modus operandi, mission and vision of ASUU.
He said there were differences among the key segments of the university especially those who do not believe in recurring strikes as the solution to every welfare agitation.
In addition, Ngige said some lecturers also accused the ASUU executive of non rendition of account of Incomes and Expenditure for years.
Based on these he said,” the Ministry of Labour and Employment set up a committee to look into the merit of their application. The committee saw merit in the application and recommended approval for the registration of the Association by the Registrar of Trade Unions (RTU) since 2020. But for the advent of COVID-19 pandemic and the recurring ASUU Strike, this would have been done.
National Coordinator of CONUA, Niyi Sumonu assured the Minister that they will work to ensure that this country is not truamatised again by strike.
He said that its members were never on strike, adding that they would appreciate if the federal government will prevail on the school authorities to reopen the institutions for normal academic activities.
President of NAMDA Dase Lancy Oriue said the registration had given medical and dental academicians in the university and other tertiary institutions where training of medical students and postgraduate doctors takes place a legal voice in the determination of the training requirements, management of the training system, and the welfare of her members.
He explained that Medicine and Dentistry are very sensitive professions which require a well programmed, uninterrupted and hands-on training
“Prior to today, the peculiarity of the medical and dental training was increasingly emasculated triggered by bodies that capitalised on the lack of a voice for medical and dental practitioners in academics particularly in the university system.
“With this registration, a platform has been created for medical trainers/teachers to start the process of gradual reversal to the known normal medical training environment that was punctured in the early 2000s,” he said.