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FG VS ASUU: Rival union, CONUA, seeks to join in matter

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A breakaway faction of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) – Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA), has said it is consulting its lawyers on the possibility of being joined in the suit between the Nigerian government and the striking ASUU.

After almost seven months that the public universities have been shut nationwide, the government recently referred its dispute with ASUU to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) as all efforts to reach a middle ground had failed.
CONUA, led by its National Coordinator, ‘Niyi Sunmonu, appeared at the industrial court in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital territory on Friday to witness the proceedings.

The faction of the academic staff, which had consistently dissociated itself from the ongoing industrial action, said its presence in the court was necessary since the outcome of the proceedings would affect its members.

Why we were in court – Sunmonu
Though Mr Sunmonu said the union has not completed its registration to grant it official recognition by the government, it was considering how it could be part of the matter to argue its independence and dissociation from the lingering crisis.
He said: “Because we are still awaiting our certificate of recognition as a union, we cannot join in the suit for now. But we have come to the court today to observe proceedings.

“However, we are still discussing with our counsel to see which point of the law can actually make us to join in the suit.”
Meanwhile, the matter between the government and ASUU was on Friday adjourned to Monday for hearing.

On ‘no work, no pay’
Mr Sunmonu, a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, said its union members have never been on strike, saying that they were only not teaching in some schools because other unions also declared strike.
He said it would be unfair for the government to apply the “no work, no pay” policy on all lecturers because its members were working before the non-academic staff unions on the campuses commenced their industrial actions.

The CONUA boss said at the Obafemi Awolowo Universities (OAU), Ile-Ife, for instance, its members had continued to work even when ASUU commenced strike, and insisted that its union is an interested party in the ongoing legal tussle.

Backstory
ASUU embarked on an initial four-week strike on 14 February, demanding the government to honour the agreements it had entered with the union.
After several meetings without resolution, ASUU continued to extend its strike until 29 August when it declared the industrial action indefinite.

Meanwhile, CONUA, which was formed in OAU in 2018, is a product of leadership crisis within the institution’s chapter of ASUU.
The faction which currently awaits its registration documents from the Ministry of Labour and Employment, is claiming to have chapters in more than 16 public universities nationwide.

Its coordinator, while taking part in PREMIUM TIMES’ Twitter Spaces programme recently, said CONUA is committed to exploring other options to drive home its demands rather than “the incessant strikes that have not earned us the desired results.”
Mr Sunmonu said some of the options being considered include legislation and legal pathways.

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