The Federal Government has threatened to deregister the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over its failure to submit its audited accounts for over four years.
Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, said this at a meeting he held with the leadership of the Congress of University Academics (CONUA).
CONUA, a breakaway faction of ASUU, got the support of the Federal Government during the last strike which lasted eight months.
The minister said the government needs to know how the check-off dues of ASUU members were spent, saying such attitude flouted the laws of the land.
FG concludes CONUA registration, says lecturers liberated from ASUU bondage
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“A group of teachers in the university system applied to his ministry in 2018 to be registered as the Congress of Nigeria University Academics and they set up a committee, which did their work and by early 2019, recommended that the union should be registered.
“Nevertheless, we did not register the union because we wanted to make sure that we are on the right path. By 2020, the request came back and this time around, they explained that they had been expelled from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and therefore denied protection.
“And that the expulsion was as a result of their unwillingness to go the way of ASUU. They complained of lack of democratisation inside ASUU and lack of transparency in the management of finances of ASUU, just like the ministry pointed out to ASUU that it has not audited its accounts.
“As of the time they were saying this in 2020, ASUU had not audited its accounts for four years. We wrote to ASUU, asking them to tender the accounts for the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, but nothing was done.
“So, the committee felt that this association had a case. If check-off dues are deducted from your salary, you have a right to know how they are spent.
“And we as the Ministry in charge do not also know how it was spent whereas it is our law that they are operating, talking in terms of deduction of check-off dues at source, the RTU 18 and Section 37 of the Trade Union Act, talks about rendering account to the Registrar of Trade Union (RTU). It says that those accounts must be rendered before June 1, every given year.
“The letter was unattended to 2020. In 2022, ASUU was asked to respond to that letter and show reasons why the penalty spelt out in that section 37 of Trade Union Act, should not apply to them.
“This includes also the withdrawal of the certificate of registration as a Trade Union, which ipso facto grants them the powers to receive check-off dues from their members monthly from their salaries.
“So, to cut the story short, the ministry decided to register members of CONUA to operate as a full-fledged union and we gave them a letter of recognition.
“By the processes of the law, after the letters of the union are given, you gazette that union. It is part of Section 3 (2) of the Act and this section permits the Minister to regroup an existing union when its functionality is no longer guaranteed. And that is what we have exercised with CONUA.”
Lecturers now liberated from ASUU bondage – New union President
In his reaction, the President of CONUA, ‘Niyi Sunmonu, described the moment of certificate presentation as historic for their unions, saying his members “have been liberated from the shackles of ASUU”.
Sunmonu said they would use the platform to promote the interest of their members, conscious of national interest.
He said, “Today is a historic day and it is exciting to be back to this great Ministry in conclusion of the final phase of the registration of CONUA, which is marked by the collection of certificates.
“We appreciate the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, and his remarkable team for finalising the registration of the Congress of University Academics (CONUA) with the issuance of the certificate of registration of the Union to us today.
“In CONUA, our primary purpose at all times has been to promote the welfare of our members, while being constantly conscious of the overriding national interest.
“With this complete registration, we assure Nigerians that we shall embark on meaningful and realistic discussions and negotiations with the Federal Government and all other stakeholders on how we can get a better deal for University lecturers and indeed for better working of the entire system without necessarily rocking and sinking the boat.
“Hon. Minister, ever since CONUA was registered, many Nigerian University Academics were liberated from the bondage of ASUU. There has been a breath of fresh air in the system that is now ventilated with the air of freedom.
“Freedom of association and freedom of choice across ideological divides. One important implication about the registration of additional academic unions by the Hon Minister, is that there may never be a total shutdown of our Universities again ever!
“Because the peculiarities of many academics in the system are different, the ideologies are also different hence the different unions would always approach things differently at all times. This is noteworthy.”
Daily Trust recalls that an internal memo had emerged during the weekend from the office of Accountant-General of the Federation requesting details of all members of the union for onward payment of their withheld salaries.