The Federal Government of Nigeria has said it was reviewing an application for registration by the Congress of University Academics (CONUA) which was requesting registration as a trade union.
The union members who were part of the Academic Staff Union of Universities applied to the Ministry of Labour and Employment after their application for registration was rejected by the Corporate Affairs Commission.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, told CONUA executives who visited him in his office on Thursday, that they have a right to apply for registration as an association distinct from the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
He added, “This is because the Nigerian constitution in section 40, which you have rightly quoted here, gives you the right to relate with persons or like minds. And to that extent, it says that you can form trade unions, and for us as politicians, we can form political parties subject to INEC registration as a valid political party, within which you can enjoy rights as candidates and other rights associated with that.
“Your application from what you said here and from records of ministry was rejected by the registrar of trade union and you now exercise your right, which is within the trade union act to apply to the Honourable minister for review.
“That review is ongoing now. I have put up a committee to look into that and I will ask that committee to wind up their work and we are giving them four weeks from today to turn in their report to the ministry. So, I do hope that by the middle of December, we have gotten the final work of the committee.”
Ngige said he had looked at the interim report that partly recommended a window for reconciliation with ASUU which CONUA rejected.
He noted, “You are asking for a divorce; part of our job here is to register unions. Our labour laws listed ways we can do it. We are going to apply those ways to do it. We ask you to go about your duties without breach of peace.”
The minister refuted allegations that the Federal Government has abandoned the revitalisation of Nigerian universities.
He said a large chunk of money from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund goes into the university system, polytechnics, and colleges of education.
He recalled that the University Autonomy Act was done with the intention that the governing councils would generate revenues but they are not doing so today.
Earlier, the President of CONUA, Niyi Sunmonu of the Department of Physics, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, appealed to the minister to register the union without further delay in order to legitimise their operations.
Sunmonu said they were no longer members of ASUU due to ideological differences, adding that “ASUU does not sufficiently represent the interest of the class of persons whose interest CONUA intends to represent.”
He requested the FG to suspend further payment of check-off dues of their members who no longer belong to ASUU, and henceforth pay the dues to CONUA.