CEM REPORT | Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila met with Buhari as part of efforts to resolve the ongoing ASUU strike.
Gbajabiamila led a delegation of principal officers of the House to Aso Rock Presidential Villa immediately after yesterday’s plenary.
Speaking with journalists after the meeting, the speaker said the visit was to submit recommendations from their meetings with ASUU and relevant stakeholders to Buhari for his approval. He expressed optimism that the crisis would soon be resolved, as the delegation had a robust engagement with the president.
“As you know, what is on the front burner today, even beyond the politics, is that our universities, our lecturers, and our children are out of school.
“The House of Representatives decided to step in at that point four weeks ago and we’ve had a series of meetings that lasted hours and we’ve been able to get both sides to shift ground to an extent and that’s what we came to discuss with Mr President about those recommendations.
“Mr President, as usual, had a very good listening ear. He took the report of the House and accepted it. We discussed at length, the details of the report, and he wanted to go through them himself.
“We have another meeting on Thursday between our good selves and Mr. President for his final decision. We had a good engagement, with a very positive response. He asked us a couple of questions, in some grey areas, which we clarified, and he accepted the report and he wanted a couple of days to go through it.
“We are working and we are hopeful that this (strike) will soon be a thing of the past. I know once this is agreed upon, the strike will be called off.”
Meanwhile, the federal government formally registered two new university-based unions – Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA).
While presenting the certificates of registration leadership of the two unions at a meeting in Abuja yesterday, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said the move would help liberalise the academic sub-sector and make for more freedom for university workers.
“In view of the above, I Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige, in the exercise of the power conferred on me as the Minister of Labour & Employment, do hereby approve the registration of CONUA and NAMDA.
“The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment in the discharge of her mandate in the management of employment relationships and the administration of trade unions to ensure a harmonious industrial relations system in the nation has decided to approve the registration of two more trade unions in the Nigerian university academic sub- sector. The university sub-sector is a major development plank of any nation’s socio-economic growth.”
Ngige explained that CONUA has been seeking registration since 2018. He stated that the Ministry of Labour and Employment set up a committee to look into the merit of CONUA’s application and has now approved the application having passed the basic minimum requirements.
Also, he said NAMDA had applied for registration as medical teachers in the university system under various groups, saying, “they include medical doctors doing pre-clinical teaching of basic medical courses and honorary consultants teaching clinical students in tertiary health institutions and teaching hospitals.”
With the granting of registration to the two unions, Nigerian universities now have three academic unions, namely ASUU, CONUA, and NAMDA.
The Minister told the new union’s leadership that they were “e entitled to all rights and privileges accruable to a union of similar status which includes right to receive check off dues of members. You can now go back to your institutions and open the doors of your classrooms to teach the students.”
Nigeria said the registration of the new academic unions was necessitated as a result of the failed effort to reach an agreement with ASUU. He added that while some lecturers were ready to resume ASUU stood against them.
“However, all efforts at conciliation failed resulting in the transmission of the trade dispute to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) for adjudication in line with the statutory trade dispute resolution processes.
“At the NICN, an Interlocutory Injunction Order was obtained asking the Union to get back to work while the substantive suit is being heard; an order ASUU leadership and members refused to obey.
“Interestingly, a lot of university teachers in the public universities had indicated their willingness to get back to work while negotiations continue.”
When the Minister was reminded that the Trade Unions Act clearly states that another trade union cannot be registered by the Minister in a sector where a similar one is already existing, Ngige cited Section 32 of the Act that empowers such registration at the discretion of the Minister.
He hinted that more unions in the universities would be registered in due course.
“Yes that is what the law says, but there is another proviso that the Minister can register new unions where the existing one no longer serves the purpose it was established.
“We registered pensioners in the contributory pension as a breakaway from the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) when it was becoming too big and there was restlessness everywhere among the pensioners. The NUP went to court, but the court said the Minister was right in registering another union. I can tell you that after these two new unions, others are coming and we will register them if they meet the requirements.”
The Minister also hinted that university teachers and workers who had been working would be paid after government goes through their claims.
This comes as some members of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) have started receiving their September salaries.
Some members said most of their members have indeed received their September salaries though they were unwilling to speak on the outstanding February to August salaries, The Guardian reports.
National Coordinator of CONUA, Niyi Sumonu, assured the minister that they would work to ensure that the country was not traumatized again by strike. He said CONUA members were never on strike, adding that they would appreciate it if the federal government would prevail on the school authorities to reopen the institutions for normal academic activities.
Similarly, the President of NAMDA, Dase Lancy Oriue, said the registration gave medical and dental academics in the universities and other tertiary institutions, where the training of medical students and postgraduate doctors took place, a legal voice in the determination of the training requirements, management of the training system, and the welfare of its members.
Oriue explained that medicine and dentistry were very sensitive professions, which required a well-programmed, uninterrupted, and hands-on training
Meanwhile, ASUU described the newly registered unions as unimportant, saying it has no faction.
ASUU President, Professor Emmanuel Osodek said Ngige was only being desperate over what he alone knew, Thisday reports.
Emphasising that Nigerians needed to ask the minister certain questions, Osodeke said the newly registered unions were just dissidents whose extravagant ambitions were being advanced by Ngige.
Osodeke accused the minister of sabotaging the efforts of the National Assembly to deal with the root cause of the strike.
“We don’t have factions of ASUU. The minister is desperate, but they are inconsequential. Our union is intact and we will continue. When the National Assembly is trying to intercede on an issue and the Ministry of Labour is jumping from court to the issue of salaries, registering other unions. I think Nigerians should ask him what is his interest?
“We don’t have factions. Call them. Go to any of our branches, we do not have factions. What there are, the new group at OAU are dissidents and he (Ngige) encouraged them. But we don’t have factions. If we have factions, can we be on strike for eight months?”