The Appeal Court ruling, and the registration of the Congress of Nigeria University Academics (CONUA) and the Nigeria Association of Medical and Dental Lecturers in Academics (NAMDA) have not signaled a peaceful industrial climate in the university system, according to stakeholders in the education sector. The National Industrial Court’s order, ordering the lecturers on strike to return to work was overturned by the appellate court in response to an application by ASUU for permission to appeal. After receiving a request to that effect from the Federal Government, the Industrial Court had issued an interlocutory order on September 22 ordering university lecturers to resume their jobs pending the resolution of their conflict with the government. ASUU headed to the appellate court to seek redress after being dissatisfied with the decision through its attorney, Femi Falana (SAN).
ASUU submitted a petition to the Appeal Court on September 28 asking for permission to appeal the industrial court’s ruling. But the Court of Appeal insisted that ASUU must comply with the ruling of the lower court as of today, October 7, in its decision, which gave ASUU “conditional leave to appeal the order of the Industrial Court.” ASUU must provide proof that its members started working again on October 7 in order to file its notice of appeal within seven days, according to the three-person panel chaired by Justice Hamman Barka. The National President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Dr. Tommy Okon, commented on the development by saying that there was still room for negotiations between ASUU and the Federal Government and that the parties must decide to negotiate the issues amicably and be willing to yield grounds.
The Federal Government should invite ASUU to posit reasonable suggestions.
In order to accommodate the shifting of previously held high moral ground, Dr. Tommy Okon urged the Federal Government to invite ASUU to the negotiating table and make reasonable offers with an open mind. He argued that the strike shouldn’t be allowed to worsen beyond what has already been seen because of the impending election. The government’s insistence that it would not pay for the eight months that ASUU members have been on strike must be revisited and resolved for the benefit of the workers. Additionally, he pointed out that efforts to split up the labour movement into numerous unions and trade associations would only serve to strengthen the movement’s unity.
The ongoing crisis in federal universities, according to Okon, cannot be blamed on ASUU in a charitable manner. The government is involved in the first one, while ASUU is involved in the second. In labor relations, neither side completely prevails. He asserted that there would have been some negotiation based on the offer made if the government had made ASUU a reasonable offer. The phrase “the struggle continues” in the slogan implies that the fight for better working conditions is ongoing. It’s a battle that never ends. That does make that a right choice as well, since the government would have to register other unions. What the government is trying to avoid today, they will run into it tomorrow. This struggle will not end in a few days.
I can author the registration of unions in any sector says Ngige.
In spite of some pertinent provisions of the Trade Union Act, the Minister of Labor and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has insisted that he has the authority to approve the registration of unions in any industry he deems necessary. When the minister was reminded that the Trade Unions Act makes it clear that the minister cannot register another trade union in a sector where a comparable one already exists, the minister cited Section 32 of the Act, which gives the minister discretion over such registration. He gave the example of how, when the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) organized protests and rallies across the country to voice their outrage over the non-payment of pensions in the country, he helped facilitate the registration of a union for pensioners in the contributory pension scheme.
Additionally, he made a suggestion that more unions would eventually be registered in universities, saying, “Yes, the law says that” but there is another proviso that the Minister can register new unions where the existing one no longer serves the purpose it was established. As a breakaway from the NUP when it grew too large and there was unrest among the pensioners everywhere, we registered retirees in the contributory pension. The NUP filed a lawsuit, but the judge ruled that the minister had every right to register a different union. I can assure you that there will be more unions after these two, and if they meet the criteria, we will register them.
The Federal Government of Nigeria is unintentionally leaving and diverting.
Olusegun Oshinowo, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), criticized the minister for tearing apart the foundation of Nigerian labor relations. He claimed that Ngige is either ignorant of this fact, which I highly doubt, or he has simply decided to disregard it in favor of the expediency and desperation of breaking ASUU out of frustration, disregarding the negative impact such an action would have on our entire industrial relations system. He stated that Nigeria was unintentionally straying and deviating from a fundamental tenet and principle underpinning the creation and existence of the industrial trade unions as they are currently existing as a result of the Federal Government’s action.
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