Falana: Registration of CONUA illegal, we can’t have two unions in a sector

Femi Falana, human rights lawyer and senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says the registration of the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) by the federal government is illegal.

In 2018, CONUA parted ways with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over disagreements on some issues.

On Tuesday, the federal government formally recognised CONUA as Chris Ngige, the minister of labour and employment, presented a certificate of registration to the union in Abuja.

Many believe the registration of CONUA was to shrink the influence of ASUU amid its lingering strike and the move has since sparked heated reactions from stakeholders in the education sector.


In an interview on Arise TV on Wednesday, Falana said the labour laws in Nigeria do not permit the registration of more than one union in a sector, describing it as a desperate act by to end the ASUU strike.

“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,” the SAN 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.”



ASUU has been on strike since February 14 to press home the demand for improved funding for universities, and a review of salaries for lecturers, among other issues.

Several meetings between representatives of the union and the government to address the strike have not yielded results.

On September 21, the national industrial court ordered ASUU to call off its nationwide strike.

But the union has filed an appeal seeking a stay of execution of the judgment.


Falana had said the national industrial court does not have jurisdiction to rule on the case between the federal government and ASUU.

CONUA, led by ‘Niyi Sunmonu, a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Ile-Ife, has been seeking to be registered since its breakaway from ASUU.


Sunmonu had said the union was established to restore stability to Nigerian universities and that its members would adopt “constructive criticism” and “alternative ways of solving problems”.

Speaking on CONUA’s formation, Emmanuel Osodeke, ASUU president, said the union is not aware of any recognised faction and is unperturbed by the government’s action.


The ASUU president accused Ngige of “continuously creating more chaos in the resolution process”.

The registration of CONUA comes weeks after the government threatened to withdraw ASUU’s registration licence for allegedly not submitting its audited financial returns for over five years.

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