The Nigeria Labour Congress was urged by the federal government to drop its objections to the registration of two new academic unions in the country’s public university system on Tuesday.
The Nigeria Association of Medical and Dental Academics and the Congress for Nigerian University Academics, two new unions, recently obtained letters of recognition during a ceremony held at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment in Abuja.
However, in a letter to Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labor and Employment, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, President of NLC, urged that the letters sent to the unions be withdrawn because their registration broke the rules governing trade unionism.
Ngige pleaded with NLC in his response, dated October 12, 2022, to permit the new unions to exist following the spirit of freedom of association.
Insisting that the Trade Dispute Act of 2004 gives him the exclusive authority to register new trade unions, whether by forming a new union or reorganizing existing ones, he made this claim.
The minister emphasized that the new unions were a result of regrouping and that two committees within his ministry had reviewed their applications. Both committees included the Registrar of Trade Unions, who participated when the first proposal for approval was made in 2019 and again in 2022.
The Academic Staff Organization of Universities (ASUU) was reorganized into CONUA and NAMDA, he said, for system efficiency and effectiveness and, more crucially, to safeguard these groupings of university professors whose viewpoint varies from the unruly parent union.
He recalled that the NICN supported its earlier decision in this case, which had indicated, among other things, that the Minister of Labour and Employment had the authority to register trade unions, in a suit with the number NICN/ABJ/219/2019.
The distinction within the section between creating a new trade union and regrouping existing ones was made, he pointed out, because the final clause of Section 3(2) does not address the reorganization of existing trade unions.
Regarding NAMDA, he claimed that they are medical doctors who teach in universities and are obligated by their professional ethics and the Hippocratic oath to “first no harm” to everyone. As a result, he claimed that they were opposed to the ASUU’s ongoing, illegal strikes because they had disrupted medical training and negatively impacted the educational system, as well as the quantity and caliber of future medical and dental professionals in Nigeria.
Ngige warned the NLC President against abusing his position to lead the public astray by incorrectly citing labor authorities.