The Federal Government of Nigeria has threaten to withdraw the Certificate of Registration (CoR) of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) introduced a new twist to the rift between the two bodies yesterday.
The new twist came barely a day after the government said the National Industrial Court (NIC) injunction ordering varsity teachers back to the classrooms would not affect negotiations with the union.
The government threatening to withdraw the union’s CoR because of its alleged failure to submit the financial reports of its audited account as required by law in the last five years.
It was learnt that the government, through the Registrar of Trade Unions, has issued a query to the union on why its CoR should not be withdrawn for running against the law.
Labour and Employment Minister Dr. Chris Ngige confirmed the development while hosting the leadership of the Nigerian Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA) at work on Wednesday night.
The minister had referred the matter to the NIC, following a breakdown of negotiations between the striking varsity teachers and the Federal Ministry of Education; their primary employer.
Despite series of meetings chaired by Education Minister Adamu Adamu, both parties failed to reach an agreement.
Ngige said the university based – unions were in the habit of not obeying the law that set them up, with regard to the submission of their yearly audited account.
The minister said he has asked the Registrar of the Trade Unions not to allow the hammer of the law to descend on ASUU because of the prolonged strike as any action taken by the government would be wrongly interpreted.
He noted that going by the provisions of the law, the leadership of the university based unions that collect check-off dues from their members were mandated to render an account on how the money was spent.
But ASUU President Prof Emmanuel Osodeke described the planned move to de-register ASUU as a trade union as an attempt by the minister to blackmail the university lecturers back to work.
The ASUU boss urged President Muhammadu Buhari administration to investigate how the minister has used the ASUU strike to undermine the government and the interest of students.
Ngige alleged: “ASUU has not responded to the relevant Section of Trade Union Creation for submission of audited accounts. How do they utilise their money?
“The money they collect as check-off dues, should be accounted for. So, the Trade Union Act says that in June of any given year, unions should produce audited accounts at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
“The Registrar of Trade Unions has written to them to show why we should not withdraw their certificate of registration. They have not responded to the letter. Rather, I learned that they came last Friday with bundles of papers and said they are the audited accounts.
“Of course, he rightly told them that ‘I didn’t ask you for your audited accounts anymore. I need you to respond to my query on why disciplinary action should not be taken against you.
“If disciplinary action is taken against ASUU now, although I am restraining it, they will say that it is because we are in court. They will say that we are being victimised because we are on strike. We are being punished. Whereas, they have been running foul of the law.
“Five good years, they have not tendered an audited account of their activities, at least, for the benefit of their members. For now, you are their members. They should give you an account of how they spent your money. They have not done so.”