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Call Lecturers’ Union, ASUU To Order; Strike Is Illegal – Buhari’s Minister Tells Nigerian Labour Congress

Meanwhile, the Minister urged the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to advise its affiliate to call off the strike.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige has declared the ongoing strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as illegal over the latter's failure to abide by the provisions of the Trade Disputes Act.

He stated this while speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2022 edition of the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) in Lagos, on Monday.


This was contained in a statement issued by the ministry’s spokesperson, Charles Akpan, in Abuja.

Ngige, who argued the legal status of some trade unions said ASUU went about the strike illegally stating that the union refused to inform its employer, the Ministry of Education nor was the minister of labour notified of a breakdown in negotiation.

He said after the action had been declared, the dispute was apprehended and the law required that everyone returns to status quo ante - a law which ASUU disobeyed.

Meanwhile, the Minister urged the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to advise its affiliate to call off the strike.

Ngige further urged the council to discuss as part of its agenda, a workable recipe that appropriately conciliates disputes with associations that are not properly registered as trade unions to ensure they fully abide by the provisions of the law.   

He said, “What will be the relationship with workers’ organisations that are not properly registered as trade unions? The Labour Act is there and it says the minister can discuss with them. But they don’t fully conform with legal provisions, especially in terms of style of negotiation and conciliation. NLAC should, therefore, come to the aid of the country here.

“Even though the Trade Disputes Act permits the minister to apprehend and deal with these workers that have not been registered as unions, you can also see that when dealing with them, you encounter problems because they do not fully understand the nuisances or obey the labour laws as it should be.

“If you are a union, you give adequate notice before proceeding on strike. If you are a union too and your strike is apprehended, you go back to your work while the necessary adjustment is made to give you justice. NLAC is expected to get the workers’ side of the tripartite to live up to their responsibilities in this regard.”

The minister noted that some associations in critical sectors of health and education such as the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) are in fact, not properly unionised. NMA and NARD are not trade unions. They are an association of workers.

“The university teachers are registered under ASUU and are affiliated to the NLC but that affiliation is only in name. It is not, because they don’t obey the Labour Act as it concerns conciliation.

“For example, ASUU declared a month-long strike and called it a warning strike. It did not notify its employer, the Ministry of Education, nor did the union notify me, the minister of labour, that there is a breakdown in negotiation. I know they had some discussions which were in limbo but I should be notified properly so that I can arrest the breakdown and bring it forward for proper conciliation.

“Now, I apprehended the dispute in consonance with the Labour Act. They came for conciliation, only for them to go back and continue the strike. This is illegal. The law is that once a dispute is apprehended, everybody returns to status quo ante. The law also says if I arrest a dispute and the party or parties are not ready to conform, I should transfer the dispute within 14 days to either the Industrial Arbitration Panel or to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in line with Section 17 of the Trade Disputes Act. But I’m concerned that if I do this suo motu, this will not solve the problem of getting our children back to school outright.

“So, I’m using this opportunity to plead with the NLC to which ASUU is affiliated, to call them to order, make them obey the law, to let them know what the Trade Disputes Act says and as university teachers, who are even teaching industrial law, to abide by the law. They should call off that strike. That strike is not appropriately instituted. I have conciliated, and made sure the issues in disputes have been decisively dealt with.”