Funmi Olaitan, Ibadan
Crisis may be brewing in the nation's education sector as Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), on Wednesday called on the 19 states that are owing teachers several months of salary to pay up within the next 30 days or face an indefinite strike action.
National President of the union, Mr Michael Alogba Olukoya, gave the ultimatum in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, while addressing journalists after the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the union, where representatives from across the nation were hosted by the Mr Waheed Olojede-led Oyo NUT.
He listed the states owing teachers salary 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 (3 months), and Oyo (3 months owed primary and secondary school teachers)
Other states 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 (4 months), Bayelsa (7 and a half months), Imo (paying 70% monthly salary to primary and secondary school teachers), Kwara (paying by percentage and owing 4 months), Borno (minimum wage yet to be implemented), and Zamfara (yet to implement national minimum wage).
While handing down the ultimatum, NUT President who lamented that many state governors have failed to be transparent in their agreements with workers' unions, said, "we hereby give a 30-day ultimatum to all the above-mentioned states to pay all the outstanding salaries being owed the teachers."
"They will soon collect another Paris Club money and so we hope they will pay all the backlog of salary. If any State 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 governments", he stated.
The NEC also used the occasion to kick against the call for autonomy of local government councils, stating that the ghost of the effects of primary schools left in the hands of the local governments in the past had continued to haunt teachers, leading to its near-collapse in terms of personnel, funding and infrastructural development.
Olukoya stressed that 1999 Constitution saddles state governments with the responsibility of funding and managing primary schools, noting that, "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".
The union equally called for extension of years of service for teachers in 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".
While supporting Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN)'s stance to ensure all teachers are formally registered to weed out quacks, Olukoya said "After this Friday, 16th of June, when registration closes, we are going to constitute a task force to picket all private and public schools including those of the Police, Army Command, Unity Schools, in order to save primary schools from imminent collapse".