By Rita Esegine
We want to ensure that no unions can cause total shutdown of Nigerian Universities in the future, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, on Tuesday, said, after he declared the regrouping of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and has therefore registered two new unions of lecturers.
The two unions; Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and Nigerian Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA), Ngige said was registered after due consideration following series of letters written to the Ministry of Labour and Employment by the lecturers who made up the two new unions. He said the lecturers had in the letters complained of ASUU’s maltreatment and further declared their interest to break away from their parent union ASUU.
Ngige, who made this known in his office in Abuja when he played host to the two unions, said that Trade Union Act empowers him to regroup existing labour and pensioners unions. He recalled that he had carried a similar action when he regrouped the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) into three unions for the purpose of industrial harmony. He added that the registration of the new unions is an action taken in the interest to ensure that no union will cripple Nigeria university education. He insisted that ASUU actions are not in favour of a progressive tertiary education in the country.
“Trade Unions Act CAP. T14, Law if the Federation of Nigeria 2004 gives the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment powers to regroup an existing Trade Union of Worker or Employers. In the view of the above, I Senator Chris Ngige, in the exercise of the powers conferred on me as the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, do hereby approve the registration of; Congress of Nigeria University Academics (CONUA) and Nigeria Association of Medical & Dental Lecturers in Academics (NAMDA).” The Minister, said.
The Minister further said that the unions now have equal rights with ASUU and will be invited to all events and negotiations involving university lecturers. He added that there are now three voice (unions) in the Nigeria tertiary education, that ASUU will no longer be the only voice that speaks for Nigerian lecturers. He also noted that the unions applied for registration in 2017 and 2018 respectively, even as he insisted that the registration of the two unions doesn’t mean that ASUU no longer exist or that their they will not enjoy their due rights.
“These Associations will exist side by side with ASUU in the Nigerian Universities in the spirit and tenets of International Labour Organisation (ILO) core Convention. They are accordingly entitled to all rights and privileges accruing to such academic association/organization including but not limited to receiving check off dues of their members” Ngige said.
Furthermore, Ngige said that the Federal government will still go on to negotiate with ASUU and resolve the lingering issues that led to 7 month old strike.
To the newly registered unions, Ngige asked them to resume academic activities in the universities without further delay. He went on to warn the unions not to interfere in government business in the running of the universities.
“Don’t interfere in government business and government will not interfere in yours. Do not tell government who to appoint as Vice Chancellor or any other position. Go back to school and commence teaching immediately.”
In his response, the President of Nigerian Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA), Dr Nosa Lance Orhue, said; “This registration has 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.
“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.
“Medicine and Dentistry are very sensitive professions which require a well programmed, uninterrupted and hands-on training. It requires time and sufficient exposure which, when lost, is difficult to replace without extension of the training duration. This comes at a cost to students, parents and the nation. A shortened time of exposure carries the risk of poor training and the attendant negative consequences to human lives due to sub-standard healthcare delivery services.
“Consequently, we wish to appeal to the federal government and ASUU to quickly resolve the current strike action in our universities. In particular, the Association appeal to ASUU to consider suspending the action since Mr President has promised to personally make consultations and resolve the outstanding areas.”