CONUA lambasts Tinubu dissolution of varsities' councils - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Sunday, August 6, 2023

CONUA lambasts Tinubu dissolution of varsities' councils

The Congress of University Academics, CONUA, has faulted the dissolution of the Governing Councils of federal universities by President Bola Tinubu, saying it is totally against the provisions of the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act 2003.

The union, also lambasted the National Universities Commission, NUC, over its introduction of new curriculum for the nation's universities, saying the action erodes the autonomy granted the universities by relevant laws.

According to the National President of CONUA, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, in a statement, the steps by the President and the NUC were flagrantly opposed to the provisions of extant laws governing the administration of the universities. 

"CONUA notes with appreciation President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s declaration of the commitment of his administration to enthrone university autonomy. It is in the light of this commitment that we believe that it is an error for the Governing Councils of federal universities to be dissolved without reference to the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act 2003 which is also referred to as the Universities Autonomy Act No. 1, 2007. Section 3(2A) of the Amendment Act states as follows with respect to the tenure of Governing Councils.

 “The Council so constituted shall have a tenure of four years from the date of its inauguration provided that where a Council is found to be incompetent and corrupt it shall be dissolved by the Visitor and a new Council shall be immediately constituted for the effective functioning of the university."

The union said further, "Apart from patently violating the law on university autonomy, a wholesale dissolution of the Governing Councils before the end of their tenure could give the unintended impression that the government is unappreciative of the invaluable  services of the distinguished Nigerians some of whom were literally begged to put their wealth of experience at the service of the Nation’s educational system."

CONUA also faulted the NUC for wholesomely taking over the development of curricular for the nation's universities without recourse to their Senates 
"University autonomy is also undermined when the statutory duty of the Senates of universities to develop the curricular for their universities is taken over by the National Universities Commission (NUC) which is currently seeking to impose  what is called the Core Curriculum and Minimum Academic Standards for the Nigerian University System (CCMAS) on all Nigerian universities. 

It is therefore not surprising that various university Senates have met, reviewed and rejected the CCMAS. Since CONUA believes that the NUC action negates the spirit of university autonomy, the union calls on the government to, as a matter of necessity and urgency, direct the NUC to review its position."

CONUA also decried the non-payment of the seven months salaries of its members being withheld following last year's strike university workers.

It reiterated that its members were not part of the strike and were not responsible for the closure of the universities. 

"CONUA formally made its non-involvement in last year’s academic staff strike known to the Federal Government in a letter addressed to the Minister of Labour and Employment in April 2022. The letter made it clear that CONUA constituted a separate and independent union in the university system. This fact was affirmed by the judgment delivered on 25th July, 2023 by Justice Benedict Kanyip (PhD), the President 
of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN). 

"Since CONUA neither called for nor joined any strike, withholding the salaries of members of the union contravenes Section 43 (1b) of the Trade Disputes Act CAP. T8, which states that "where any employer locks out his workers, the workers shall be entitled to wages and any other applicable remunerations for the period of the lock-out and the period of the lock-out shall not prejudicially affect any rights of the workers being rights dependent on the continuity of period of employment". This provision is consistent with global best practices."

It also called for the review of the salaries of workers in the country, especially, lecturers, whose salaries have not been increased since 2009.

"CONUA is hereby calling on the government to, without further delay, cause its various and relevant organs to increase the salaries of academics in Nigerian Universities while taking into account the current realities created especially by the fuel subsidy removal. Financially debilitated, psychologically challenged and dispirited lecturers cannot be expected  to sustainably engage in the mentally-tasking and physically-exhausting tasks of teaching, research and 
community service which constitute the mandate of academics. 

"This point is particularly quite critical in the light of the unprecedented developmental challenges which are being created and will be created by the innovative measures that are being put in place by the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration."

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