By Samuel Adegoke
Thousands of university lecturers under the aegis of the Congress of University Academics (CONUA) have dissociated themselves from the ongoing strike in Nigerian universities.
Their position was conveyed in a statement signed by the National Coordinator of the Union, Dr. ‘Niyi Sunmonu, and National Publicity Secretary, Dr Ernest Nwoke, on Friday.
The statement reads: “The Congress of University Academics (CONUA) would like to seize this opportunity to announce its independence as a union of academic staff in Nigeria’s public universities. Being a separate and independent union, it has never been part of the decision to embark on the industrial action which has paralysed academic activities in our universities for five months now.
“Our strongly-held view is that strikes wreak great havoc on the university system, and the concessions that are earned after every strike, over the decades, have amounted to pyrrhic victories when weighed against the systematic destruction of the local and global image of university education in Nigeria. Our preferred alternatives to strikes in resolving industrial disputes therefore include constructive engagement and constant dialogue with all stakeholders.
“As CONUA, we are of the strong belief that strikes should never be a strategy of first recourse. Their deployment should be contemplated only when all other options have failed, and they should not appear to be motivated by a desire to cause maximum damage. It was against this background that the Congress dissociated itself from the strike when it was first declared on February 14, 2022. For example, in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife and Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, CONUA members were working until students were sent home in April 2022. In fact, before the incident which caused the students to be asked to vacate the campus, most of our members had concluded their lectures. Since it wasn’t our members who declared a strike, lumping us together with those who are on strike is therefore patently unfair.
“Furthermore, CONUA notes, regrettably, that the condition of service of academics in Nigeria is very poor. It is, in fact, pitiable. Research has, in this regard, shown that Nigerian academics are among the worst remunerated when compared to their counterparts on the African continent. Thus, in February 2022, CONUA, through a letter addressed to the Minister of Labour and Productivity, demanded a review of the pay structure of all academic staff in our universities. We continue to believe in the urgency of such an action, and would continue to work towards the well-deserved improvement in condition of service.”
The statement also added that CONUA believes that there is a lot of problems with IPPIS, the current payment system.
“This includes inconsistent deductions, and the fact that it completely erodes the autonomy of universities and undermines the authority of Vice-Chancellors as Chief Executives and Accounting Officers of their respective institutions. CONUA, however, believes that these are issues that can be sorted out through dispassionate, well-meaning collective efforts, and is ready to offer the professional expertise of its members to the government to solve the problems,”it said.
The congress called on government to expeditiously register the union in order to provide a more robust platform for academics with alternative, pragmatic and more sustainable views to operate and engage with the government.