From Kehinde Adewole
The Monopoly of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may soon be broken as a sister union, Congress of University Academics (CONUA) , on Thursday, met with the Minister of Labour and Employment , Senator Chris Ngige, at the Conference hall of the Ministry in Abuja, to press home their application to be registered and have their activities as academic trade union in Nigerian Universities legitimized.
Led by the national Coordinator of the union, Dr. Niyi Sunmonu, the 10-man delegate of CONUA which comprises 9 members of its national executives and a member, had a meeting that lasted for about three hours and which was covered by newsmen.
Addressing newsmen and the Minister of labour, Dr. Sunmonu, who is a lecturer with the Obafemi Awolowo University, said: “CONUA now has members in 17 public universities across the nation which included OAU, UNIBEN, OOU, Ambrosi Alli University, FUOYE, and federal universities in Otuoke, Jos, Abuja Owerri among others.
His words: “…the first National Stakeholders’ meeting of CONUA was held in OAU between 4th and 6th October 2019, with representatives of the following five (5) Universities (branches) in attendance: Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (OAU); Kwara State University, Malete (KWASU); the Federal University, Lokoja (FUL); Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma (AAUE) and the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE). CONUA branches and memberships continue to increase. CONUA currently operates in seventeen (17) Universities, with addition of the following eleven (11) branches: University of PortHacourt; Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike; University of Benin; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye; University of Abuja; Delta State University, Abraka, Federal University, Otuoke, University of Jos, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto.
“The membership of CONUA covers the various geographical areas and cuts across all academic professions and ranks; from Graduate Assistant to Professor.
As law-abiding citizens, CONUA members immediately resolved to apply for registration of CONUA as a Trade Union within the Nigerian state. More so, CONUA is not part of ASUU as we operate as independent union in Nigerian Universities.
” The Congress of University Academics (CONUA) a new and fast growing union of academics in Nigerian universities, having considered the issues affecting university education in Nigeria, especially from the perspective of unionism has declared that we need a paradigm shift from the old order as it will no longer be business as usual in our universities. The following are the core focus of CONUA as a union:
Inculcate the spirit of discipline among our members to do their work in a manner that will impact positively on the nation.
“Raise the consciousness of our members on ethical conduct on issues of sexual harassment and how to build a relationship between students and lecturers.
” Ensure seamless and uninterrupted academic calendar in the university system.
“Educate the government and the public on the need for effective and efficient educational system in the country.
” We see ourselves as partners in national development; therefore we will be involved in national discourse to assist the government to take an informed position on national issues.
“CONUA as a union does not antagonize other unions in the university but to set things straight and channel the energy of the Nigeria academia to productive drives. The old adage “two is better than one” becomes instructive as CONUA is set to working together with other unions in the universities and this will break the monopoly that breeds absolute power and autocracy in unionism. The aim is to offer the university system the enhanced benefits of competition and choice,” he said.
Responding, Dr. Ngige said:. “What you have done by asking for registration is legitimate. We will not be biased as we will treat you fairly. Your application is being considered and we will ensure that the Committee that is handling it expedites action on it so that in four weeks we have their report. You have rejected a reconciliation between your union and ASUU by stating that you have irreconcilable differences. We will act on that.
” On the issue of University autonomy. The regulations backing it was enacted with the implied implication that the University Governing Council will generate its own funds. The University in Maryland in USA that is autonomous generates its own funds and that is obtainable in abroad where universities are autonomous. I am not one of the government officials that have our children in foreign universities. I have three children in public universities in Nigeria even though they have dual citizenship of America and Nigeria. They also had their secondary school education here.
” Being a member of a union is voluntary and your request is right in that direction. We are with you in spirit and you have taken a legitimate step. We have directed that all earned allowances of all staff of public varsities be computed through the Heads of Departments and submitted to the University Bursars. This is to erode a situation whereby some staff members would be left out of benefiting from the allowances. It is also to enable that we have authentic amount to be disbursed for the payment. IPPIS is making some modifications on the platform which will ensure that it’s officials will not have to come to campuses to physically capture staff. They are also improving on areas where there have been complaints. And they also welcome more areas of challenges for improvement,” he said.