Teachers in Abia state on Tuesday protested against the ongoing constitutional amendment aimed at granting autonomy to local governments.
Led by the state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Chizobem Akparanta, the teachers carried placards as they marched along the streets singing solidarity songs to express their grievances over moves to confine the responsibility of payment of primary school teachers’ salaries in the local governments as envisaged.
Some of the placards read: ‘We say no dark age of non-payment of salaries’; ‘Foundation of education under threat in Nigeria’; ‘Basic education is a right and must be protected’; ‘Save primary education from imminent collapse’; ‘Our children’s future must be secured.’
Speaking at a press conference prior to the commencement of the rally, Comrade Akparanta expressed the apprehension of the teachers over their fate if the payment of the teachers’ salaries are moved back to local government system, stating that teachers still remember with sadness their experience between 1990 and 1994 when local governments were in charge of paying their salaries, adding that that era was characterized by zero salary, incessant strikes and high rate of school dropouts.
“We say no to the dark age of non-payment of salaries. We want to go back to the good old days when teachers’ salary was paid by the NPEC (National Primary Education commission),” he said with nostalgia, explaining that NUT
“is not against local government autonomy” rather their concern remained that government should uphold the provision of the 1999 Constitution which stipulates that the funding and management of primary education is a function of the respective state governments.”
“NUT wishes to state in clear and unambiguous terms that the current Constitutional arrangement under the 1999 Constitution for the provision and maintenance of primary education by state governments should be sustained,” he said, noting that it was based on the constitutional provisions that the Supreme Court in ruling on the case of Attorney-general of the federation Vs Attorney-General of Abia state and 35 other (2002) held that “in so far as primary education is concerned a local government council only participates with the state government in its provision and maintenance.”
But Akparanta expressed its desire to have the salaries of primary school teachers domiciled with the state governments the union also made provision for a second option in case their suggestion was not good enough for the authorities, pointing out that while teachers would like state governments to take over the responsibility of payment of salaries of primary school teachers, the second tier of government should equally “be financially empowered to shoulder this responsibility effectively by reviewing the allocation from the federal accounts upwards in favour of the states.”
He also gave out a second option that “the federal government should treat the primary school teachers’ salaries as first line charge. Or all emoluments of primary school teachers should be deducted from the federation accounts and given to a neutral body for payment of salaries of the teachers and management of primary schools.”
The national president of NUT, Comrade Mike Olukoya, who was represented at the rally by the 4th National Vice-President, Comrade Ikechukwu Ngeya, encouraged teachers to continue the sensitization of stakeholders in education of the danger inherent in handing over the payment of primary school teachers’ salaries to the local governments.
Culled from Abia Breaking News
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