The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has demanded that the federal government revoke the registration certificates it recently presented to the Nigeria Association of Medical and Dental Lecturers in Academics (NAMDA) and Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA).
In a letter addressed to Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, the NLC stated that the government’s action goes against the provisions of the Trade Unions Act.
Ngige was also reminded of a previous government action that took place in 2013 under the leadership of Chief Emeka Wogu, the former Minister of Labor, and Mrs. N. Mbogu, the Registrar of Trade Unions. These individuals were members of the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions (ASURI), which was already in existence.
They were informed by the government that for the same reason, a trade union cannot be registered in an area where one already exists.
Mrs. N. Mbogu’s rejection letter, dated April 9, 2013, reads, “Resubmission of a Trade Union’s Application for Registration:Union of Inter-University Centre Academic Staff.In light of the provisions of Sections 3(2) and 5(4) of the Trade Union Act CAP T.14 of 2004, which read as follows: “Academic Staff Union of Inter-University Centres,” I am writing to inform you that your association cannot be registered as a trade union.S. 3(2): “…In a location where there is already a trade union, no union may be registered to represent workers or employers.According to Section 5(4), “The Registrar shall not register a trade union if it appears to him that any existing trade is sufficiently representative of the class of persons whose interests the union intended to represent,” a trade union cannot be registered.
“In light of the foregoing, the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions (ASURI) has jurisdiction over the class of workers that your organization intends to represent.As a result, your members should join the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions.
It should be recalled that on Tuesday, the Government of Muhammadu Buhari presented the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and the Nigeria Association of Medical and Dental Lecturers in Academics (NAMDA) with certificates of recognition and registration in the midst of the crisis in the education sector.
Chris Ngige, Minister of Labor and Employment, presented the information on behalf of the government in the Ministry’s Conference Room, Federal Secretariat, Phase 1, Abuja.
However, according to the NLC’s letter to Ngige, the registration certificates granted to CONUA and NAMDA are merely a violation of the country’s labor laws.
The letter begins, ““We wish to assert that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment’s issuance of Certificates of Registration to the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and Nigeria Association of Medical and Dental Lecturers in Academics (NAMDA) is in violation of our laws, which have been tested and confirmed by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, the Appeal Court, and the Supreme Court.
“The foundation of these laws was set in international labour standards, particularly the International Labour Organization (ILO) fundamental Conventions 87 and 98 which were some of the First lLO standards ratified by Nigeria upon the attainment of Independence.
“Having ratified ILO Conventions 87 and 98, Nigeria has domesticated the same in our Constitution especially Section 40 which guarantees freedom of association. The Constitution went on to regulate freedom of association in Section 41 (2). This is pursuant to public decorum and order since where one right ends another begins.
“Nigeria’s labour laws in furtherance of the constitutional regulation on freedom of association provided certain conditions for the registration of trade unions upon which compliance Certificates of Registration can be given to trade unions by the Ministry of Labour.
“Section 3 of the Trade Union Act stipulates the following conditions for the registration of trade unions: (1) An application for the registration of a trade union shall be made to the Registrar in the prescribed form and shall be signed (a) in the case of a trade union of workers, by at least fifty ’ members of the union; and (b) in the case of a trade union of employers, by at least two members of the union.
“(2) No combination of workers or employers shall be registered as a trade union save with the approval of the Minister on his being satisfied that it is expedient to register the union either by regrouping existing trade unions, registering a new trade union or otherwise howsoever, but no trade union shall be registered to represent workers or employers in a place where there already exists a trade union.
“Section 5 of Trade Union Act went on to stipulate the following additional conditions for the registration of a new trade union: “(1) Where an application for the registration of a trade union is received by the Registrar, the following provisions of this section shall app of a trade union is received by the Registrar Provided that if the application appears to the Registrar to be defective in any respect, he shall notify the applicant accordingly and shall take no further action in relation thereto until the application has been amended to his satisfaction or a fresh application is made in place thereof.
“(2) The Registrar shall cause a notice of the application to be published in the Federal Gazette, stating that objections to the registration of the trade union in question may be submitted to him in writing during the period of three months beginning with the date of the Gazette in which the notice is published.
“(3) Within three months after the end of the said period of three months the Registrar shall consider an objection submitted to him during that period and, if satisfied: (a) that no properer objection has been raised; (b) that none of the purposes of the trade union is unlawful; and (c) that the requirements of this Act and of the Regulations with respect to the registration of trade unions have been complied with, shall, subject to subsection (2) of this section, and to section 6 of this Act, register the trade union and its rules.
“(4)The Registrar shall not register the trade union if it appears to him that an existing trade union is sufficiently representative of the interests of the class of persons whose interest the union is intended to represent.”
“Clearly, from the provisions of Section 3(2) and Sections 5(2), 5(3) and 5(4), there is no basis for the purported registration of the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and the Nigeria Association of Medical and Dental Lecturers in Academics (NAMDA) as both entities failed woefully to satisfy the precedent conditions provided by the Trade Union Act for the registration of trade unions.
“As earlier posited, the legitimacy of granting registration certificates to groups in a sector where unions already exist has been tested in our courts from the National Industrial Court to the Supreme Court. In the case of Erasmus Osawe Vs Registrar of Trade Unions and also the case of Nigeria Nurses Association Vs Attorney General of the Federation Unreported Suit No. S.C. 69/ 1980 delivered on 6th November 1981, it is trite that anywhere there exists a union registered to cater for a category of the workforce it would be unpardonable proliferation and offence against the Constitution and Trade Unions Act for any other union to be registered for the same category of workers.
“And this position was more recently restated by the Supreme Court in a judgement delivered on 11th January 2008 and cited as (2008) 1 S.C. (PT.III) Supreme Court Justices led by Hon. Justice Sylvester Onu and four others.
“Honourable Minister, in view of the foregoing, we demand that you respect the doctrine of the Rule of law especially the clear provisions of our labour laws cited and withdraw the Certificate of Registration issued to the two new trade unions.”
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