The Federal Government yesterday said it would direct Vice-Chancellors of federal universities to reopen their institutions following the registration of two new unions.
The unions are the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA), a breakaway faction of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and the Nigerian Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA).
CONUA is led by Niyi Sunmonu, an Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife. teacher, while NAMDA is headed by Nosa Irhue.
Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige, who presented letters of approval to the leaderships of CONUA and NAMDA in Abuja, said with the development, students who have been at home since February 14, when ASUU began its ongoing strike can now return to the classrooms.
He, however, was silent on when the resumption would commence.
When contacted by The Nation on the registration of CONUA, ASUU President Emmanuel Osodeke said: “It is not worth my reaction.”
Ngige defended the registration, saying that CONUA and NAMDA can now co-exist with ASUU in the university system,
His words: “It may be noted that Section 3(2) of the Trade Unions Act, CAP. T14, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004 gives the Minister of Labour and Employment powers to regroup an existing Trade Union of Workers or Employers.
“The section under reference states ‘no combination of workers or employers shall be registered as a trade union save with the approval of the minister on his being satisfied that it is expedient to register the Union either by regrouping existing trade union or registering a new trade union or otherwise, however….’
“In view of the above, I Senator, Chris Ngige, in the exercise of the power conferred on me as the Minister of Labour and Employment, do hereby approve the registration of Congress of Nigeria University Academics (CONUA), and Nigerian Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA) as trade unions.
“They are accordingly entitled to all rights and privileges accruing to such academic Association/organisation including but not limited to receiving check off dues of their members in accordance with Section 17 of the Trade Unions Act.
“They are also to have members in the Nigerian University Pension Management Company Limited (NUPEMCO) and being on CONUASS Salary Structure/Scheme, they are equally entitled to Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) and all other allowances attached thereto.
“ASUU, despite bickering, experienced protests from a large majority of her members including CONUA and NAMDA members.”
The minister said the government, through the Registrar of Trade Unions, was looking at the alleged failure of ASUU to render its audited accounts.
Ngige added that a special committee of the ministry headed by the Permanent Secretary has been set up to look at the matter before an appropriate action aimed at “preserving the Integrity of our National Labour Administration System” was taken against ASUU.
He said: “ The non- rendering of an audited account by ASUU is an infringement on the provisions of the Trade Unions Act as stated in Section 40 on the powers of the RTU to call for accounts of Trade Unions at any time.
“Also, when ASUU finally “rushed” in an account as had been requested, the RTU was unsatisfied as to the manner in which the account in question had been kept and prepared, the sufficiency or otherwise of existing checks against irregularity or fraud, and other caveats provided by section 41 (1) and (2) of the Trade Unions Act.”
National Coordinator of CONUA Sunmonu said the union applied for registration as a trade union since 2018.
Sunmonu assured that CONUA would work to ensure that the nation was not traumatised again by academic union dislocations in the country’s public universities.
NAMD President AIrhue said the registration had given medical and dental academicians in the university and other tertiary institutions a legal voice in the determination of the training requirements, management of the training system, and the welfare of her members.
He said: “Before 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.”