Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has described the registration and recognition of the Congress of Nigerian University Academics as a trade union by the Federal Government as a divisive plan bound to fail.
The Chairman of ASUU at the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, Dr Cyril Ologbosele, said CONUA was registered by the government to hurt ASUU following the union’s refusal to call off the strike until its demands were met.
ASUU has been on strike since February 14 to press home their demands for better welfare for its members and improved funding for government universities.
Perturbed by the insistence of ASUU members not to return to work, the Federal Government dragged the union to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria which ordered the striking workers to resume work pending the resolution of their dispute with the government.
Not satisfied, ASUU challenged the ruling at the Court of Appeal but the appellate court on Friday ordered members of the union to resume work immediately.
However, the government had on Tuesday announced the registration of CONUA and the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics as trade unions.
But speaking with our correspondent on the phone, the Chairman of AAU-ASUU, Dr Cyril Ologbosele, said, “The registration, to us, will not adversely affect the relevance and strength of ASUU as a trade union.
“Some people, some time ago, opted out of our union and said they were in CONUA. I think the registration is meant to spite us because of the dispute our union has with the Federal Government.
“The Minister of Labour and Employment (Dr Chris Ngige) is just trying to spite us just as at one point when there was a factional group to reduce the worth of the Nigeria Labour Congress. It (CONUA’s registration) will not stand.
He further stated that the recently registered trade union would struggle to meet the standard set by ASUU, adding that many members of the AAU chapter of ASUU would not join CONUA.
“They will even have a problem with membership because many of our members are not going to join them. We just had about two (lecturers) who claimed at a time when we had a crisis to be members of CONUA. I don’t know whether they are still there, but let us see whether the new trend will make them come out again,” he added.
When contacted, the National Coordinator of CONUA, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, said members of CONUA were focused on building the union.
“For now, we are focused on building our union. Time will tell,” Sunmonu said in text a message on Friday.
Meanwhile, the University of Benin chapter of ASUU has advised the government to address the challenges facing public universities and their academics rather than causing a distraction with its latest action.
The Chairman of UNIBEN branch of ASUU, Nwabenu Chikogu, who spoke in a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH, said, “We are challenging the registration of another union to exist alongside ASUU because the Trade Union Act does not permit it.
“We cannot sit back and watch persons in this government abuse the laws of our land and upturn our constitution; we believe that everybody must be law-abiding.
“They (CONUA) don’t pose any threat to our union. Have schools reopened now? Have students come back to school? All those things that the government is doing are diversionary.”
FG broke – NEF
Meanwhile, the Northern Elders’ Forum has said that the Federal Government does not have the financial wherewithal to handle ASUU’s demands.
The group also urged the lecturers to be responsible and return to the classrooms while they engaged with the Federal Government as well as the leading presidential aspirants on their demands.
The spokesperson for the pro-Northern group, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in an interview with one of our correspondents, also stated that ASUU leadership “is not a thinking one”.
According to him, it is obvious that the Buhari regime does not care about the educational system.
Baba-Ahmed said, “I suspect that this country is broke. When people ask for huge amounts of money either as arrears or like the money ASUU is asking for, then it is like asking for a stone to deliver water.
“ASUU is very poorly-led. It is led by people who are unable and unwilling to understand that we cannot continue doing the same thing and expect a different result.
“ASUU should know by now that the leadership of ASUU is not a thinking one and the government is not one that prioritises education.
“So, if you close the schools down for two years, what will the politicians lose? They will lose absolutely nothing. So, one would think that ASUU leaders by now will sit down with the next set of leaders and discuss their plans to develop education.”
ASUU overbearing – SAN
In a related development, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Yomi Alliyu, SAN, noted that ASUU was becoming overbearing.
He said, “Those of us seeing our children daily doing nothing for eight months really appreciate CONUA. God bless CONUA! ASUU’s handshake has gone beyond the elbow.”