This year alone witnessed almost all the university unions in the country embark on industrial actions, yet on Tuesday, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, went on to register two more academic unions, a move which in the nearest future, may add to their headaches.
The approval of both new unions, namely the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA) by the FG, was in a bid to split the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Presenting the new unions with a Certificate of Registration at his Conference Room, Ngige said, “In view of the above, I Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige, in the exercise of the power conferred on me as the Honourable Minister of Labour & Employment, do hereby approve the registration of – Congress of Nigeria University Academics (CONUA), and Nigeria Association of Medical and Dental Lecturers in Academics (NAMDA).”
In response, the National Coordinator of CONUA, Niyi Sumonu assured the Minister that its union will work to ensure that the country is not truamatised again by strike while prevailing on school authorities to reopen the institutions for normal academic activities.
In the same vain, President of NAMDA, Dase Lancy Oriue explained that Medicine and Dentistry are very sensitive professions which require a well programmed, uninterrupted and hands-on training.
However, reacting to government’s registration of the two new university unions, the ASUU president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke said, “That does not in any way affect us. We are a disciplined and focused union and we know what we are doing and what we are after. Let them register as many unions as they like. That is inconsequential as far as we are concerned. We are not also in any way threatened. The sky is big enough for birds to fly.”
“We know our members, we know our strength and we also know what our vision and mission are. Our members are not saboteurs or bootlickers . Our struggle is for a better educational system in the country. If the system is good, all of us will benefit and it is not only ASUU members’ children and wards that are going to benefit from improved funding and the provision of better facilities in our institutions,” Osodeke said.
Unknown to the Labour Minister, both new unions are only telling him what he wants to hear. More so, his attempt to break the ranks of ASUU will only make the academic unions more formidable because the questions to ask are, will the government’s action or inaction not affect members of these newly approved unions? When they also get dissatisfied, won’t they also consider embarking on a strike action? And if they do, will the minister withdraw their registrations because they are exercising their rights as rumours of them doing so with ASUU is getting stronger?
However, this new move by FG to distabilise the academic unions also shows the lack of interest of the government in the country’s education sector, especially, in ending the seven month old ASUU strike which has witnessed students waste an entire academic year at home.
The Labour minister had gone from inciting students, parents and the presidency against the striking lecturers to procuring a court judgement from the National Industrial Court, in an attempt to force them back to work and even ordering Vice-Chancellors to open the institutions without resolving the crisis.
Successive Nigerian governments have failed to abide by their promises of improved standard of the universities and welfare of the academic staff, and they only bulge on few occasions when a strike is embarked upon. Hence, ASUU’s lack of trust for government needed not to be over-emphasised.
In the interests of these innocent students whose elevation to the next class or graduation are being delayed, Information Nigeria urges the Muhammadu Buhari administration to prioritise education, as no sector of the economy can survive without it.
The unending strike is already killing many students’ interests in securing admission or furthering their education, while others are looking to start or continue their education abroad. With this, how will the universities develop or generate revenue for government, let alone themselves, when students’ admission and school fees are being spent on foreign universities?
Ngige and the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu should put pride and personal interest aside to ensure that government institutions are more attractive to not only Nigerians, but also foreigners, just like the way some Nigerian students and many politicians are attracted to foreign universities.