Femi Falana, senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says the newly-registered Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) is illegal.
Speaking in an interview on Arise TV on Wednesday, Falana said Nigeria’s labour law does not allow multiple unions in one sector.
“When the application [CONUA] was submitted, the ministry of labour sought legal advice and the ministry was educated to appreciate that under the current labour law regime in Nigeria, you cannot have two unions or three unions in the same sector,” he said.
“In other words, within the academia in Nigeria, there can only be one registered trade union, that is, ASUU, registered pursuant to the trade union act, as amended.
“What happened was a desperate measure to break the strike. Government has tried various measures, but the latest one is perhaps going to embarrass the government because it is an illegal exercise and won’t work. ASUU is today one of the most organised and united trade unions in Africa.
“Registering a splinter group or a couple of them will not in any way dismember ASUU or disorganise ASUU. Once the federal government appreciates this in the next few days, I think the government would again have to stop chasing the shadows.
“We are going to have a mushrooming of trade unions, which threatens industrial peace in the country. We cannot have two unions in the university; neither can we have two unions in other unions in the country. Politically, it won’t work.”
The federal government presented a certificate of registration to CONUA on Tuesday.
CONUA is a breakaway faction of ASUU.
ASUU has been on strike since February 14. The federal government and the union have failed to reach an agreement over demands bordering on salaries and allowances of lecturers.
There have been many meetings between the government and ASUU, but all the meetings so far ended in a deadlock.
In the last meeting convened by the leadership of the house of representatives, Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, and Emmanuel Osodeke, ASUU president, engaged in a heated exchange.
The recognition of the faction by the ministry of labour is seen as an attempt to whittle down the influence of ASUU.