The breakaway faction of the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) – Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) has called on university vice-chancellors to reopen the campuses for its members to resume work.
CONUA has consistently said its members are not on strike, insisting that paralysing academic activities on campuses cannot be the best solution to the multidimensional challenges facing the universities.
In a statement signed by its National Coordinator, ‘Niyi Sunmonu, CONUA said the call became necessary in response to the order of the National Industrial Court (NIS) directing ASUU to suspend its seven-month-old strike.
The judge, Polycarp Hamman, gave the order on Wednesday, in a ruling on the federal government’s application for an interlocutory injunction against the ongoing strike.
The government’s counsel, James Igwe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had filed the application seeking the court’s order restraining ASUU from continuing with the strike pending the determination of the suit initiated through a referral by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.
Mr Hamman, in granting the order on Wednesday, dismissed ASUU’s objection to the application.
According to CONUA, it became necessary because “the court is one of the recognised tools of democratic engagement in the country.”
Mr Sunmonu also urged its members to be prepared to return to classrooms “while the agitation for reform in the nation’s university system continues.”
The statement said: “Since CONUA members have not been on strike, re-opening the universities will make it possible to duly continue work, stem the restlessness among the students who have had their studies interrupted and facilitate the restoration of peace to the nation.”
It said it would employ other options such as legislation, lobbying and legal interventions to ensure the revitalisation of the university system in the country.
CONUA, headquartered in OAU, was formed on the campus in 2018 following a leadership crisis within the university’s chapter of ASUU.
The crisis erupted in 2016 during the selection process of a new vice-chancellor of the university.
The then leadership of ASUU on the campus was accused of bias in its “blind support” for a particular candidate among many of its members in the race.
The crisis had also consumed the then outgoing vice-chancellor of the university, Bamitale Omole, who was then chased out of the institution by protesting non-academic staff unions.
An acting vice-chancellor was appointed who steered the ship of the university for one year until the appointment of Eyitope Ogunbodede in a substantive capacity. Mr Ogunbodede’s five-year tenure ended in June. Adebayo Bamire, a professor of agriculture, has since taken over.
Meanwhile, since 2018 when it was formed, CONUA said it now has branches across almost 17 universities across the country, and that it is awaiting its official registration by the Nigerian government.
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.