No fewer than 19 states in the federation owe teachers in public primary and secondary schools several months of accumulative salary arrears, the teachers’ union has revealed. The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), the umbrella union of teachers in the country has, however, threatened to shut down public schools in the affected states.
The union, rising from its National Executive Council (NEC) at the Teachers’ House, Oluyole, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, yesterday issued a 30-day ultimatum for the respective governors to pay all outstanding salary arrears, failure to face aggressively-driven indefinite strike, which will be total.
Giving the marching order, NUT National President, Comrade Michael Alogba Olukoya, regretted how many state governors had failed to pay their teachers, even as he lamented that it was painful that the governors were not transparent in their agreements with workers’ unions.
This was as the teachers raised the alarm that they are dying due to nonpayment of their several months of salary. The national president listed the affected states and outstanding months to include Benue (10 months), Ekiti (6 months), Cross River (6 months owed 1,000 teachers), Kogi (15 months with half salary being paid since 2013), Ondo (5 months), Taraba (4 months), Niger (3 months), Delta (4 months), and Oyo (3 months owed primary and secondary school teachers). Other states, according to Alogba-Olukoya, are Abia (5 months), Osun (paying teachers half salary for 23 months), Nasarawa (paying half salary for 18 months to primary school teachers), Plateau (half salary since 2010), Adamawa (four months), Bayelsa (eight and a half months), Imo (paying 70 per cent monthly salary to primary and secondary school teachers), Kwara (paying by percentage and owing four months).
He said Borno and Zamfara states are yet to implement the national minimum wage. “We hereby give a 30-day ultimatum to all the abovementioned states to pay all the outstanding salaries being owed the teachers,” Alogba-Olukoya said.
The NUT president insisted that the ultimatum had become necessary because the governors will soon collect another Paris Club refund, “and so we hope they will pay all the backlog of salary arrears.” “If any state government fails to pay up within this stipulated time, we shall converge again and give a notice of action.
There is going to be total disconnect between us and such state governments,” Olukoya threatened. Meanwhile, investigations by New Telegraph indicated that most of the teachers now shun their classrooms to engage in other ‘profitable’ ventures to eke out a living.
While narrating his ordeal, a teacher at one of Bayelsa State schools, Mr. Negi Ginighan, told New Telegraph that: “Like my other colleagues, I have not been finding the situation palatable and encouraging. I have been begging in the last few months to feed my family since the crisis began.” He regretted that when the situation became so much unbearable, he had to withdraw his children from their private schools since he could no longer pay their school fees.
“Our suffering is unyoubearable. You don’t need to ask me to remind me of it. I have put it behind me and I hate to remember it. If you know how much I owe my debtors, you will not be here asking me how I am feeling,” he said in anger. To worsen his case, he recalled how some people now avoid him whenever they see him coming, thinking that he is coming to borrow money from them.
A primary school teacher at Zappa Primary School, Asaba, Delta State, who simply identified herself as Tina, lamented that some of their colleagues had died in the process as a result of their indebtedness, while awaiting their unpaid salary. She lamented: “I don’t know the language to use in describing our plight. We are dying and we are being treated as second class citizens. But, we are the foundation stone of any academic endeavour.
It is not possible for a pupil to be in secondary school without first passing through primary school. For the government to neglect and allow us to die in penury for the service we rendered is a condemnable sin. We are truly suffering. We have been turned to beggars and laughing stock by our contemporaries even as some landlords are no longer ready to rent their houses or apartments to teachers in the state.”
While blaming Governor Samuel Ortom for their predicament, a teacher said: “I wonder what Governor Ortom is doing for not paying our salaries. As I speak with unyou, I have not been paid a dime in the last 11 months and we have a governor in place.
We are really suffering. We have been put in a situation where we could no longer feed our families, buy drugs or even pay the school fees of our children. “It is unfortunate that we are living a borrowed life; living on borrowing to meet our family needs.
It is lamentable that whenever the government decides to pay us, it will pay only one month, and what can we do with one-month salary?” Also, some teachers in Kwara State who expressed dismay over the development lamented that due to non-payment of their salary, they now hide from their creditors.
“To be candid, it has not been easy, particularly for those of us deployed to the villages, as we no longer report to school regularly as we adopt rotation basis among ourselves,” they said. One of the teachers, Mr. L. Wahab, from Ilorin South explained: “We have been hiding from our creditors. Go and check most of the women who sell children’s wear and foodstuff, we owe them and we have used all sort of styles to avoid them since we cannot pay and now we have to run away from them; we no longer pick calls as expected.
“It is that shameful. We don’t allow our creditors to know whenever we are paid again because what is coming is not enough to meet our outstanding debts.” Similarly, a teacher in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, who simply identified herself as Martha and who said she was being owed seven months’ salary, lamented: “Survival has been very difficult and life has become unbearable as feeding, not to talk of paying house rent, children’s school fees and meeting other needs have not been easy.” Given their poor situation, some of the female teachers, she noted, had resorted to petty trading even during school hours, in order to make ends meet.
“We now sell recharge cards, liquid soap, among other petty goods so that we could make little income to feed our children,” Martha added, saying that feeding has become very difficult. Echoing Martha’s position, teachers in Ondo State have bemoaned their state, describing teaching in Nigeria as a hopeless and hapless profession.
“Nigerian teachers are dying. Our female teachers now engage in petty trading to survive the economic hardship due to non-payment of their salaries,” they lamented, insisting that some of them are teaching in private schools as part-time teachers, while others engage in extra-moral classes for students writing certificate examinations.
Addressing newsmen shortly after the NEC meeting, the NUT president kicked against the call for autonomy of local government councils, saying that the effects of primary schools left in the hands of the local governments in the past had continued to haunt the teachers, leading to its near-collapse in terms of personnel, funding and infrastructural development. He stressed that the 1999 Constitution saddled the state governments with the responsibility of funding and managing primary schools.
“Local government councils only have the role of participation. It is, therefore, important to emphasise the need for states to be financially empowered to shoulder this responsibility effectively, and we propose that allocation from the Federation Account be reviewed upwards in favour of the states to enable them discharge this constitutional responsibility effectively,” he stated.
The NUT also called for extension of retirement age for teachers in the secondary and primary schools from 60 to 65 years “just as it has been raised for teachers of polytechnics and the universities. This is to remove the ensuing segregation as all belong to the same teaching industry of Nigeria.”
Besides, the NEC threw its weight behind the call for every teacher to register with the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), saying this position is to weed out quacks from the system. “Following the expiration of registration on Friday, June 16, the NUT is going to constitute a Task Force to picket all private and public schools, including those belonging to the police, army command schools, unity schools, in order to save primary school education from imminent collapse,” Alogba- Olukoya added.
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