By Archibong Jeremiah
Primary school teachers and other local government staff in Cross River State have embarked on an indefinite strike under the instruction of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT Cross River state wing yesterday Monday 29th June, 2015.
When contacted, the State Chairman of NUT, Comrade Eyo Nsa Itam revealed that: “The strike is long overdue, we wrote to government notifying them that our staff under the local government payroll have not been paid salary from April to date, based on that we were supposed to go on strike on the 9th of this month and the relevant authorities came in and we had an understanding to give them two weeks which if they don’t pay we can embark on the strike, that two weeks elapsed about two Fridays ago”.
Furthermore, he disclosed that: “Workers under the unified local government made up of teachers, local government staff, medical and health workers were not paid salaries. Many don’t even have money to transport to work while some; their children have been driven away from school for fees. Some have health issues that they cannot meet up because of non payment of salaries, so we had no option than to embark on the strike. Let them stay at home pending when the government will pay them their salaries”.
Arising from a meeting with the state government team, he said: “The Secretary to the State Government said they became aware, only this penultimate Friday that the local government staff were not paid from April. So let us see if they will pay within this week, without any payment the people will stay at home pending when the salary will come in”.
Faulting the state government, Nsa maintained that, “I strongly believe there are serious lapses in communication but the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Governments, has proved that he had been notifying government of every step officially. The SSG said when directives were given for salaries to be paid to all staff they believed local government staff were included. There is a sort of misunderstanding within the network of communication”.
Itam spotted out the major issue, “The major problem is that the local government staffs are paid by Ministry of Local Government while the state government’s payroll is prepared by the accountant general who takes care of the state while Ministry of Local Government takes care of local government.
“Before now there were no issues because local governments had enough allocations to cater for salaries and others but right now the allocation sent from the federation account is not enough to pay salaries not to talk of statutorily deductions; the problem is from the federation account, state government sourced for funds to pay but local government cannot because they don’t have such rights.
“But to add, the internally generated revenue accruing to local government which is to augment the payment of salaries is now given as revenue points to politicians so this money is not coming in as it ought to. We ordered the primary school teachers to stay at home because they are the ones directly affected but if there is no head way from the government the secondary school teachers will join in solidarity”, the NUT Chairman vehemently added.
He confessed that incessant strikes are not good for the system, “We all know that strike is not palatable which can make the children half baked, the learning condition of the child is the working condition of the teachers, so if the teachers working condition is not favorable the learning condition of the children will not be conducive”.
He lamented that, “There are some schools still running shifts, a normal school is supposed to start from 8am to may be 2pm but you discover that some school start by 8am and stop by 12pm thereabout which means the children are deprived of about an hour of learning period so how do you think the teachers will be able to complete the syllabus? He queried.
According to him, “The last administration spent heavily in the renovation of schools but these renovations were haphazardly done, that is why we have some schools running shift such as Pin Margaret which is one of the most populated schools in Calabar South”.
Comrade Eyo went further to criticize the state government compulsory two hours daily prep in all schools.
His words: “Coming to add to the new policy of government of two hours prep which is unfavorable and unproductive, the purpose of government is defeated by this practice.
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