PROF Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in his characteristic frankness, has accused Dr Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment of worsening the ongoing industrial dispute between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the federal government by turning it into a personal quarrel.
Prof Jega, who was also a former President of ASUU, spoke his mind during a programme on Arise TV on Tuesday, accused Dr Ngige of “creating challenges.”
He said: “Right now, the Minister of Labour is not helping matters. He has turned this into a personal quarrel between him and the Minister of Education, on one hand, and between himself and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on the other…
“While many other people are trying to find a way of addressing this situation so that students can go back to school and ASUU can go back to work, he is busy creating challenges.
“He now took the matter to the industrial court, now today, he now registered two unions and he is trying to proscribe ASUU.
“If this is allowed by this government, I think this is a recipe for disaster and it may really create more problems than it can solve on this matter of strike in the universities.”
By next week’s Friday, October 14, 2022, ASUU would have been on strike for eight months, making it a full academic session.
Amongst the core demands of the union include improved funding for universities, and a review of salaries for lecturers, university autonomy and the issue of enrolment of lecturers into the federal government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information system (IPPIS).
Series of negotiation meeting between ASUU and the federal government ended in deadlock with constant altercations between Dr Ngige and the leadership of ASUU, with the latter taking the matter to the National Industrial Court from where he obtained an ordered asking ASUU to call off the strike. ASUU has since filed an appeal seeking a stay of execution of the ruling.
Dr Ngige had on Tuesday formally recognised two rival academic unions, the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA), and National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA), contrary to a clear provision in the Trade Union Act.
Section 3, sub-section 2 of the act, prohibits the registration of a union where a functional one exists. “No combination of workers or employers shall be registered as a trade union save with the approval of the Minister on his being satisfied that it is expedient to register the union either by regrouping existing trade unions, registering a new trade union or otherwise howsoever, but no trade union SHALL be registered to represent workers or employers in a place where there already exists a trade union,” the subsection states. (Our emphasis)