ASUU Cracks As New Academic Union Seeks Recognition

Prof-Biodun Ogunyemi
Prof-Biodun Ogunyemi

The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, may split as a new academic union, Congress of University Academic, CONUA is seeking recognition.

The new union said its emergence was to ensure stable university calendar to improve the quality of education at the ivory tower and enhance innovations in the system.

The union further stressed the need for interfacing between teachers at the ordinary level and academics at the higher institutions of learning to improve quality of students admitted into the university system.

Meanwhile, Senator Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, confirmed Sunday that CONUA had applied for registration in April but noted that the application was yet to be treated.

”Their application is in the Ministry but it has not been treated. I asked a committee to look at their application. It was submitted in April,” he said.

ASUU, however, reacted Sunday that it was not threatened by the emergency of a new academic staff union, even as the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, said the only academic staff union it knew was ASUU.

But addressing journalists at CONUA’s first stakeholders meeting held at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, weekend, the National coordinator, Dr. Niyi Sumonu, said it was time for other academia in other universities to join the union in its search for a refined academic unionism to foster quality education in the Nigerian university system.

According to him, the union can no longer avoid doing things in the old ways and expect different results, hence, the need to develop alternative ideas to brainstorm with other stakeholders to ensure stability in the university system and return the country’s old glory in the sector.

He said: “For standard of education to be very high, we need a stable academic calendar, we need to be able to predict academic session, we need to have innovations which is difficult without continuity.

”We also need to be in tune with modern realities, our union would approach the matter of engagement with all stakeholders in an engaging manner to have a common ground for moving forward.

“Our union is not anti-government, if government and by extension, administrators of universities are doing well, we will let the world know and will quickly knock them if they do otherwise. We shall provide alternatives, constructive criticisms and take them to task where they are not doing well and provide for them how to do well.

”We will not wait for them to make mistakes before we intervene. We have vision and will provide ahead what can be done to have better results. If that is done, we are sure we will have a better way to move forward.

“Members believe we should have alternative ways of solving problems, members have been contributing very well to the finance of the union, when we fulfill and do all that we need to do, financial constraints will be forgotten.

“We have been at this for over three years in Ife, we have been waxing stronger and members from other universities have been experiencing what we experienced here, hence the decision to come together to form a national Union.

“The issues we are having cut across all universities and resonate well everywhere, the five institution that have the gut to bell the cat came together to form the union and this is only the first stage. By the time we are done with the procedures, it would be like an inferno you may not be able to curtail in terms of spread.

“Our strength lies in our focus, which includes the welfare of our members, the interest of the system and most importantly, the students that no one is defending their interest, we would look out for them because we are only lecturers because of them.”

According to him, the five institutions that attended the meeting are Federal University, Lokoja; Kwara State University, Malete; Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, Edo State; Federal University, Oye-Ekiti; and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

He said other schools were already on board to join the union.

Asked if the union was out to rival ASUU, Dr. Nwoke Earnest, the National Publicity Secretary, said the union wasout to redefine academic unionism in Nigeria and was not ready to join issues with any union.

”We want to be able to proffer solutions to issues, even before they come up. There is no point sending our children to countries which do not have intellectuals as Nigeria but because you can predict when your child get to the university and graduate.

”We are in essence, coming together to start something new, which is an interaction with the educational system which is not confrontational but a synergy of all stakeholders.

We need to think of students’ welfare, the educational system in Nigeria and the development of the country itself because many countries developed because of the achievement of its ivory towers and without a stable academic system, it is impossible to achieve such feat,”,he added.

Reacting to the development Sunday, Dr Adeola Egbedokun, chairman of OAU chapter of ASUU, said he was not ready to talk about any union because he was not aware of its existence.

He, however, stated that ASUU was not in any way threatened by the existence of any union or the formation of a new one, since it had been in existence for over four decades.

“ASUU is solid, can fight for itself and always up to the task. I don’t want to talk about any union because I am not aware of its existence.

“The last time ASUU called for strike, it was complied with 100 percent here in Ife, so if any union is coming to existence, good luck to them, but ASUU has the tenacity to agitate for whatever it wants, it is not threatened by any union,” Egbedokun added.

It its reaction, Organized Labour denied knowledge of any splinter group in the ranks of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, declaring that there was only one ASUU recognized by law.

President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said there had been attempts in the past to use some individuals to cause problems in ASUU but noted that such attempts had never succeeded.

On his part, Comrade Emma Ugboaja, the General Secretary of NLC, said although people were entitled to form a union, the trade union laws specified steps to follow, adding that there was no information available to the NLC that there was another ASUU group in the country.

Speaking to Vanguard on telephone, the NLC President who is in Geneva for Labour matter, said: “Such a situation (splinter group in ASUU) does not exist. I am aware that efforts have been made to undermine ASUU which has not succeeded.

“ASUU has no splinter group. If there is, let them disclose their names and also which universities they belong to. That (new group) is not something that is known to us.

“In the past, during the military era, a lot of efforts, including proscription, were made but that has not succeeded because this is a union of intellectuals.

“ASUU remains one entity and it has continued to work. No splinter group exists, these are just possibly individuals coming together to achieve a purpose. Many people claim what they are not.

“In this case, ASUU has been there more than 40 years. It has undergone different challenges and different attacks and it has been able to remain together. There is no splinter group.”

Also commenting on the alleged formation, Comrade Ugboaja, the General Secretary of NLC, said: “To the best of my knowledge, we are not aware and we have not got any information from our affiliates.

“People are entitled to form a union but the trade union law is clear on formation of unions. This is a country built on law and running on rule of law.

“Trade union is not established by people that are angry with their leadership. If you are angry with the leadership of Nigeria, you don’t form another Nigeria, you go and contest election.”

The Federal Ministry of Education in its reaction, said the issue was purely a union matter which was not its business.

The Deputy Director of Press in the Ministry, Bem Goong, speaking on a telephone interview with Vanguard, said union matters were out of government’s purview, hence it cannot comment on any alleged split in it.

“I think that union matters are entirely the responsibilities of the unionists. Government does not establish union, government does not run union, if people in their own wisdom decide that this is how we are going to structure our union, I don’t think government should have a say in that.”