From Gabriel Dike and Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), yesterday, taunted the Federal Government for attempting to break their ranks with the recognition of the Congress of University Academics (CONUA), describing the move as inconsequential and shadow chasing.
CONUA is the splinter group of ASUU. It has opposed the on-going strike by ASUU, which began on February 14, and in recent years has been battling to gain recognition from the Federal Government to operate independently from ASUU.
Yesterday, in what appeared a move to weaken ASUU’s reign as the sole union for university lecturers, the Federal Government issued a letter of approval for the registration of CONUA.
The government also approved the registration of the Nigeria Association of Medical & Dental Lecturers in Academics (NAMDA).
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, who presented the letters and copies of the Trade Union Act to the groups at his office in Abuja said: “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 more trade unions in the Nigerian university academic sub-sector.
“…I Senator (Dr.) 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 & Dental Lecturers in Academics (NAMDA). These Associations will exist side by side with ASUU in the Nigerian universities in the spirit and tenets of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Core Convention nos. 87 & 98 which are respectively on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining; as well as the enthronement.”
The minister decried that classrooms in the nation’s public universities have been shut and students kept at home by the strike action of ASUU despite series of engagements to resolve the trade dispute by the Federal Government.
However, ASUU in its reaction said it was not perturbed by the government’s action.
While the union’s national president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, was repotted to have said “it does not affect us…let them register as many unions as they like;that is inconsequential as far as we are concerned, we are not threatened in any way,” ASUU Lagos Zone Coordinator, Dr. Adelaja Odukoya, described the government’s action as: “Simply shadow chasing; leaving leprosy and wasting time on ringworm, nothing more, nothing else.”
Odukoya told Daily Sun that recognising CONUA would take nothing away from ASUU, not even the fight for improved remuneration for university lecturers and infrastructure in public universities.
On the claimed by CONUA that its members cut-cross 17 universities, Odukoya said: “interesting, he who assert must proof. How many public universities do you have in Nigeria.”
On what would be the reaction of ASUU if the government starts to negotiate with CONUA to resolve ongoing strike, the ASUU Lagos coordinator queried: “Is government interested in negotiation or award?”