By Joan Nwagwu, Abuja.
The Federal Government on Tuesday presented certificates of registration to the newly registered Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA).
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, presented the certificates to the unions at a ceremony in Abuja.
Ngige said: “In doing this, both unions are officially recognised and have been registered to unbundle the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as well as the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD),” he said.
He added that both unions had been officially gazzetted, hence they were entitled to all labour rights, as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution and International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention.
The minister said that the Federal Government was working out modalities for the payment of withheld salaries of CONUA and NAMDA members for the duration of the recent ASUU strike.
He stressed that it would amount to injustice if they were victimised because they never partook in the strike in the first instance.
Ngige also said that the alleged lack of democracy, transparency and failure to render proper account of check-off dues by ASUU, both to her members and the government, culminated in the emergence of the new unions.
He said that the development had spurred considerations for the registration of CONUA and NAMDA.
He said that the gazzetting and certificate presentation of the unions were in line with Section 3:2 of the International Trade Union Convention.
“Trade unionism is for workers and employers of labour to organise themselves and it is a voluntary act.
“Prior to 2020, CONUA had approached the ministry complaining of lack of democracy, transparency in the leadership of ASUU, especially in rendering proper account of their check-off dues remitted from government.
“Based on these grievances, the ministry decided to register the members of CONUA to operate as a full-fledged union, for which we have issued a certificate of registration and its gazzetting, which is part of Section 3:2 of the ITUC.
“Unbundling is not new; the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP), NEPA and NNPC have also been unbundled,’’ he said.
Speaking, the President of CONUA, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, commended the minister for the certificate presentation.
Sunmonu alleged that the high handedness of ASUU’s leadership gave birth to the union.
“Now that CONUA has been given official backing through the presentation of certificate, the era of incessant strikes in the university system is over,” he said.
He, however, bemoaned the continued remittance of CONUA members’ check-off dues to ASUU, while urging the minister to intervene and reverse the trend
“Today is a historic day and it is exciting to be back to this great ministry, in conclusion of the final phase of the registration of CONUA, which is marked by the collection of certificate.
“We appreciate the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, and his remarkable team for finalising the registration of CONUA with the issuance of the certificate of registration of the union to us today.
“In CONUA, our primary purpose at all times has been to promote the welfare of our members, while being constantly conscious of the overriding national interest.
“With this complete registration, we assure Nigerians that we shall embark on meaningful and realistic discussions and negotiations with the Federal Government and all other stakeholders on how we can get a better deal for university lecturers.
“And indeed for better working of the entire system without necessarily rocking and sinking the boat,’’ he said.
Sunmonu, however, alleged that ASUU, through subterfuge, had caused the check-off dues of CONUA members to be paid to its account for some months through the IPPIS office.
He said that the inappropriate remittance to ASUU was reflected on pay slips of CONUA members for the affected months.
He also said that CONUA had expressly written to the appropriate authorities to stop remitting its check-off dues to ASUU.
“In other words, CONUA was recognised by law as a bonafide trade union, right from the time it was formed in 2018, and it was entitled to collect the check-off dues of its members by and for itself.
“We implore the support and cooperation of the Federal Government, as we take off effectively; we assure that will not let this nation down, as we shall diligently continue to perform our duties, ’’he said.
Also, the President of NAMDA, Dr Ali Ramat, commended the minister and his team for the presentation of the certificate.