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Salary arrears: Trouble looms in debtor states as NUT directs members to begin strike

…Debtor states include Abia, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Benue, Delta, Ekiti, Kogi, Ondo, Kwara, Taraba
Another round of trouble looms in some states across the country, as the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), that seemed to have run out of patience with the state governors, may soon order their members to embark on industrial action.

The grouse of the union is the flagrant non-compliance with President Muhammadu Buhari’s order and pleas to states to pay salaries before last Christmas, despite receiving Paris Club Refund and money from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC).

Nearly one month after the expiration of the Presidential order, many states did not only defaulted in payment, several others have yet to make any concrete arrangement to pay their workers, who had been reeling under serious economic weight, including recession overhang, inflation, health challenge, among other crises.

Worried by this, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) did not only vow to vote out and governor who failed to pay salaries and arrears, but threatened to make such states ungovernable for them.

President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, apart from warning the debtor- states to pay, had said they would mobilise workers in such states to demonstrate against the government.

He made true his threat when he embarked on street demonstration in Kaduna, which had made move to sack over 22, 000 teachers in the state over what Governor Nasir el-Rufai said was their incompetence.

Therefore, going by the current threat by NUT, all may soon not be well in the debtor- states, including, Kogi, Ekiti, Ondo, Benue, Bayelsa, Taraba, Kwara, among others.

It may be worse in Benue State under Governor Samuel Ortom, who is still being bereaved over the brutal killing of over 70 people of the state by Fulani herdsmen.

So far, The Daily Times gathered that only a few states like Lagos, Edo, Ogun, Cross River, Rivers, Sokoto, Kano, etc, may be spared the union’s rod. Some of the states however say they had been trying their best, within available resources to pay salary arrears of their workers including the teachers.

For example, Governor Yaya Bello of Kogi State said he had paid some workers four months salaries, adding that those who had cases were those not paid. Only recently, the governor announced the sacking of 1, 777 workers on the state’s employ, whom he accused of certificate forgeries and other miscellaneous offences.

Read Also: Teachers down tools in Bayelsa, seek enhanced welfare

But the many workers in the state accused the governor of witch-haunt, adding that not all workers were paid. They contend, rightly or wrongly, that some workers, who were owed over 20 months arrears were paid just for months, while no date has been fixed for the payment of the remaining arrears, just as workers were either falling sick or dying in droves.

The situation is getting better in Osun State, as Governor Rauf Aregbesola has paid December salaries in full to civil servants, unlike the previous system of half payment.

Bayelsa State, despite, being an oil producing state and enjoying derivation status, is still battling to pay backlog of salaries.

Governor Seriake Dickson has been appealing to civil servants in his state to be patient with him, as the Paris Club refund in his kitty would be judiciously used to pay them and meet other critical state’s needs like education, roads, etc, Indeed, NUT has restated its position that the teachers in 10 states that are still owing salary arrears should not resume work until all arrears were paid.

Dr. Mike Ike-Ene, General-Secretary of the union, spoke on the directive in an interview on Monday in Abuja. Ike-Ene said that 10 out of 36 states still owed teachers several months of salary arrears in spite of the Paris Club Refund given to states by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He listed the states to include Abia, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Benue, Delta, Ekiti, Kogi, Ondo, Kwara and Taraba, describing them as chronic debtors as far as teachers’ salaries are concerned.

According to him, Abia owes primary school teachers four months and secondary school teachers one month; Adamawa- two months to primary school teachers and one month to secondary school teachers.

“Others are Bayelsa – seven and half months to primary school teachers and four and half months to secondary school teachers; Benue owes 12 months to primary school teachers and seven months to secondary school teachers.

“Ekiti owes eight months to primary school teachers and five months to secondary school teachers; Kogi owes three months to primary school teachers and three months to secondary school teachers.

Ganiyu Obaaro

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