A breakaway faction of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the Congress of Nigerian University Academics, has distanced itself from the ongoing strike in Nigerian universities.
This is contained in a statement signed by its national coordinator, Niyi Sunmonu, and national publicity secretary, Ernest Nwoke.
The union reiterated that it was not a party to the decision for the ongoing strike by ASUU.
The union also announced its independence as the union of academics in Nigerian universities.
“The Congress of University Academics wishes to use this opportunity to announce its independence as the union of academic staff in Nigeria’s public universities. As a distinct and independent union, CONUA was never part of the decision to embark on the industrial action that has crippled academic operations in our universities for five months now.”
CONUA said it believes strikes are crippling Nigeria’s higher education system.
It added that the negative impact of the strikes has always been greater than their positive results.
The union added: “We strongly believe that strikes do great harm to the higher education system, and the concessions won after each strike over the decades have proven to be Pyrrhic victories when weighed against the systematic destruction of the local and global image of higher education in Nigeria. Our preferred alternative to strikes in resolving labor disputes is therefore constructive engagement and ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders.”
“As CONUA, we strongly believe that strikes should never be the first resort. Their use should only be considered when all other options have failed, and they should not appear to be motivated by a desire to cause maximum damage.”
The union pointed out that its members have continued academic activities at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife and Ambrose Alli University in Ekpoma following the strike called by ASUU.
“Before the incident that led to the students being asked to leave the campus, most of our members had finished their lectures. Since it was not our members who called a strike, it is therefore patently unfair to lump us in with the strikers,” It said.
Meanwhile, the union has bemoaned the conditions of service of Nigerian academics and inconsistencies related to the Integrated Staff Accounting Information System, both key demands of the striking ASUU.
CONUA said the working conditions of academics are among the worst on the African continent.
“Furthermore, CONUA regretfully notes that the working conditions of academics in Nigeria are very poor. It is indeed deplorable. Research has shown that Nigerian academics are among the lowest paid compared to their counterparts on the African continent,” CONUA said.
The union added that it has written to the Minister of Labor and Employment, Chris Ngige, to “review the salary structure of all academic staff in our universities.”
“We remain convinced of the urgency of such action and will continue to advocate for well-deserved improvements in working conditions,” it said.
The statement went on to say that CONUA believes there are many problems with IPPIS, the current payment system.
Among the problems, it said, are inconsistent deductions and the erosion of university autonomy because it undermines the authority of vice chancellors as chief executives and accounting officers of their respective institutions.
“However, CONUA believes that these issues can be resolved through factual and well-meaning collective efforts, and is willing to provide the government with the expertise of its members to address the problems,” It said.
“Finally, CONUA urges the government to register the union expeditiously to provide academics with alternative, pragmatic and more sustainable views with a more solid platform on which to work with the government,” the union added.