By Aina Ojonugwa –
Barely a day after the Bayelsa state government accused the federal government of pitching state workers against their governors, the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, on Wednesday handed a 30-day ultimatum to 19 states owing salaries of primary and secondary school teachers to pay up or face the wrath of the union.
The affected states include: Benue (owed 10 months), Ekiti (six months), Cross River (six months), Ondo (five months), Kogi (15 months), Taraba (four months), Niger (three months, Delta (three months), Oyo (three months), Abia (five months) and Osun (paying teachers half salary for 23 months) .
Other states are Nasarawa (paying half salary for 18 months), Plateau (paying half salary since 2010), Adamawa (four months), Bayelsa (seven and half months), Imo (paying 70 per cent of monthly salary to teachers) and Kwara (paying monthly salary to teachers by percentage and owed primary school teachers four months).
The Bayelsa state deputy governor, Rear Admiral Gboriobiogha John Jonah had described the recent release of details of the Paris Club refund to 36 states as an attempt by the Federal Government to incite civil servants across the country against state governments.
He stated the excuses given by the Federal Ministry of Finance on the effect of excess funds into the economy and the pronouncements over amount released were heating up the polity and fuelling crisis of confidence between state workers and the governors.
Jonah said, “There was an understanding that the money should be refunded to the states. So, the chart was drawn up and the entitlement from every state was written. Please, it is not a gift from the federal government to states to pay salaries. It is States’ owned money that must be refunded. The way the Federal Government is trying to play it out, states are blaming the Federal Government for inciting workers against them. It was then decided that they will pay the money in two halves.
“The Federal Ministry of Finance and CBN said that if the money was released at once, there will be too much money in circulation, so let it be divided into four parts and released twenty five percent at a time. When the first part was released, Bayelsa would have gotten N21.168billion but when the money came they could not release the 25%, they released to us N14.5billion. But the first tranche was supposed to be N21.168billion but the initial released was N14.5billion and it was announced immediately. But I want to say that the entire money was not for the state government alone, N1.3b was for the local government councils. The state government used the balance of N13.2b to offset some part of salaries and also for contractors we owe.”
He added that as deputy governor of the state and representative of Bayelsa State at the Governors’ Forum and National Economic Council meetings where the Paris Club issue were discussed, the facts of the matter were been slanted to favour of the Federal Government.
Meanwhile, the teachers spoke at a press conference in Ibadan which followed an emergency meeting of all states officers of the NUT that attracted other stakeholders in the education sector, including officers of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, TRCN.
The NUT National President, Comrade Michael Alogba Olukoya, disclosed that the union would declare total war on any state, which failed to pay the outstanding arrears following the expiration of the 30-day ultimatum, stating that it is inhuman to subject teachers to poverty by failing to pay them their salary as at when due.
He stressed that the teaching profession was no longer about bread and butter, but about the future of the Nigerian child, insisting that the union would no longer tolerate any state government, which failed to pay teachers’ salary.
The NUT leader explained that after the expiration of the 30-day ultimatum, the union would issue a directive to teachers in the affected states to embark on an indefinite strike until all the arrears are paid.
He asserted that the NUT owed it a duty to protect the interest and welfare of its members and at the same time contribute its quota to the growth and advancement of education.
Olukoya, therefore, alerted on the danger inherent in the ongoing agitation for local government autonomy as it affects the funding and management of primary education.
He berated the affected state governments for failing to recognise the importance of education as the most potent tool ever devised by man for his advancement.
The NUT National President deplored the high level of infrastructural decay in primary and secondary schools in states.
On the elongation of the retirement age of teachers, he demanded that retirement age of teachers be raised to 65 to increase the retention rate in schools.
Olukoya pointed out that this would check the rate at which experienced teachers were being lost in the school system.