The Nation Newspaper
Activist-lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) has explained why newly registered academic unions – Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and the Nigerian Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA) – by Labour and Employment Minister are illegal.
Falana gave a legal perspective on the face-off between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government in an interview on Arise TV programme, “Newsday” yesterday.
The popular lawyer x-rayed the implications of floating the new academic unions.
“Under the current Labour Law regime in Nigeria, you cannot have two unions or three unions in the same sector.
“In other words, within the academia in Nigeria, there can only be one registered trade union, that is, ASUU, registered pursuant to the Trade Union Act, as amended.
“We are going to have a mushrooming of trade unions, which threatens industrial peace in the country. We cannot have two unions in the university; neither can we have two unions in other unions in the country. Politically, it won’t work,” he said.
Falana described the registration of the new unions as illegal and a desperate measure by the government to break the strike.
He said: “Government has tried various measures, but the latest one is perhaps going to embarrass the government because it is an illegal exercise and won’t work. ASUU is today one of the most organised and united trade unions in Africa.”
The lawyer urged the government to return to the negotiation table and ensure that proper advice is sought to avoid exposing the country to ridicule.
Also, CONUA has urged ASUU to obey the order of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), which asked members of the university teachers’ union to go back to work.
CONUA Chairman at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria (ABU), Abdulahi Isiaku, made the appeal yesterday while addressing reporters on the premises of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal.
He said: “We are monitoring the case in court and we are interested in its outcome. But as you know, we are not members of ASUU and we have not been on strike all this while. Our members were working in the universities when suddenly the other union declared strike. And then, management closed down universities.
“Since that time, our members have not been on strike. We are appealing to our sister union, ASUU, to consider Nigerian students and the development of education in Nigeria and obey the ruling of the Industrial Court that says lecturers should go back to work and that universities should be reopened.
“Our members are ready to work. It is left for the vice chancellors to open up the universities. Our members have not been paid all this while because of the understanding that all academic workers are represented by ASUU. Probably that is why the Federal Government stopped paying salaries to everybody.”
Also, the Deputy Secretary General of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Chukwuma Igbokwe, has urged the ASUU leadership to change its strategy.
Addressing reporters yesterday in Enugu, Igbokwe said: “I will only advise ASUU to change their tactics. They can stagger the strike to accommodate some academic activities. Most of the state universities are pulling out of the struggle and, soon, most of the parents may be forced to pull their children out of Federal universities for state and private universities.”
Eric Ikhilae, Frank Ikpefan, Abuja and Damian Duruiheoma, Enugu