As year ends… Sad tales from states over unpaid salaries, arrears
• Imo teachers yet to be paid two and half years
• Delta teachers receive old salary
• In Rivers, teachers not promoted in seven years
• Ondo teachers drive Bolt, Uber to survive
• Ekiti owes four months
• Rufus Giwa Poly lecturers owed 11 months
The quality of education improves with motivation and incentives to teachers. Thus, as salary incentive encourages teachers, it also boosts overall academic performance. However, in some states across the country, the morale of public school teachers is on the decline owing to low and delayed salaries.
In Abia State, hundreds of public school teachers have not received their salaries since October 2018. The Guardian gathered that teachers are now living in abject poverty, which, invariably, has affected their performances in class.
Recall that the previous strike action by public school teachers in April 2019 was suspended after an agreement with the state government that outstanding salaries would be paid.
Already, public secondary and primary schools have been closed down for months over the state government’s inability to pay teachers’ salaries. Investigation showed that those who were supposed to write terminal examinations were unable to do so, while school compounds have become overgrown by weeds.
The governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, had announced plans to settle backlog of salaries before the end of his tenure next year. He listed some of the challenges confronting the state to include, management of payroll, wage-bill, pensions and workers emoluments.
When he spoke to The Guardian recently, the Commissioner for Information, Eze Chikamnayo, said government was doing its best to reposition education at all levels in the state.
According to sources, secondary school teachers are owed 14 months; state college of education (technical) 27 months and Abia State Polytechnic 30 months.
Others include, Abia State University seven months, primary school teachers seven months, state college of health sciences and management four months, pensions between 14 and 24 months, gratuities not paid for over 15 years and unpaid leave allowances from 2018 to 2020.
Already, Abia State Polytechnic has lost its accreditation over non-payment of salaries and allowances of staff for 30 months. The National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) said the accreditation was withdrawn after several warnings, which management of the school failed to heed.
The NBTE further disclosed that they had to withdraw accreditation status of the polytechnic to ensure students are not left at the mercy of demoralised staff that might resort to ‘under the table’ practices to survive.
The Board had drawn attention of the polytechnic to the dangers of non-payment of salaries and several failed promises to settle backlog of salary arrears.
The board also told the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) that no product of Abia State Polytechnic should be mobilised for national service until the school management resolves the issue of non-payment of salary of its staffers.
It urged polytechnic proprietors across the country to take regular payment of staff salaries seriously, as failure could lead to loss of accreditation.
AT the state college of education technical, Arochukwu (ASCETA), the situation is the same, as workers are owed 31 months arrears. However, the college’s management said the backlog was inherited by the present administration and urged staff to exercise more patience.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the headmistress of a primary school in Umuahia, the state capital, described as unjust, inhuman and partial, the practice of paying only a section of government workers at the end of the month and leaving others.
The state Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Uchenna Obigwe, also advised government to execute fewer projects so as to pay workers, reminding that a labourer deserves his wage.
Another labour leader, who pleaded anonymity, said the option of strike has not achieved long-term effect, but has only made government to make fresh promises to pay.
He noted that the best result from the strike was release of few months’ salaries or palliatives, just to make workers return to their duty posts. He wondered where government got latest funds to pay four months arrears, insisting that strike actions, especially, the type Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) adopted would be the most effective.
Dr. Ken Uko, a lecturer in one of the state’s tertiary institutions, berated the government for depriving teachers their salaries, saying the situation will discourage young people from aspiring to be teachers and lecturers.
Describing the scenario as the height of injustice, Uko said the same government that denied workers their salaries, would still send away their children and wards from school for not paying tuition fees.
Chief Okun Agha, a teacher in one of the state institutions, said he has children in primary, secondary and tertiary schools, but his plight has discouraged his children from choosing careers that would make them potential employees like teachers.
Mrs Agnes Utah, a widow and secondary school teacher, while lamenting, said she could not attend this year’s August meeting of women in the village owing to backlog of unpaid salaries.
Utah added that her family is used to a maximum of two meals per day and prayed God gives the state, and country in general, better managers of resources in the next dispensation, who would make salary and wage payments prompt and sustainable.
IN Imo State, the same fate has befallen teachers. Since February 2020, they have not received their salaries. The governor, Hope Uzodimma, on assumption of office in January 2020, ordered suspension of teachers’ salaries. He had received reports of alleged discrepancies in both the civil and teaching service, mostly, those engaged by the administration of Rochas Okorocha. He equally queried employment procedures, which he said, were not in tandem with civil service rules. He also accused them of not reporting for duties, but quick to earn salaries.
So, to sanitise the system, Uzodimma directed bio data physical capturing of all teachers and civil servants in the state. When the outcome was made public, lots of teachers and civil servants were omitted. These people have remained unpaid as a result.
The governor again invited the teachers to another round of verification to authenticate those with genuine cases and actual number of those affected.
To back his promise, the governor set up a committee comprising labour unions to ascertain the actual persons owed.
On the verification exercise, the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Sylvester Okorondu, said the move was to ensure that there are right teachers in schools so that they will enjoy smooth transition from salary to pensions after retirement.
Executive Chairman of Imo State Universal Basic Education Board (IMSUBEB), Dr. Ada Okwuonu, appealed to government to look into the issue of unpaid teachers and handle genuine cases for payment.
Some affected teachers who are being owed about two years and a-half-years told The Guardian their plight. Peace, who teaches in a school on the outskirts of Owerri metropolis, said: “I have passed through hell since governor Uzodimma came to power in January 2020. He directed that the N20, 000 monthly stipend being paid us should be stopped. It was not much, but it was better than nothing. I have made my case severally; presented my credentials everywhere still they have refused to pay us.”
Another female teacher in Owerri, Joy, shared a similar experience. She said: “Honestly, I do not know why we have been subjected to this predicament, not receiving salaries for two and half years. I have since resorted to trading and doing other businesses to survive.”
UNTIL they declared an indefinite strike on July 27, this year, over inability of the state government to pay the N30, 000 minimum wage, primary school teachers in Enugu had always received their full salary.
The strike action, which did not allow primary school pupils to write their third term and promotional examinations, followed inability of the state government to honour several demands by teachers to be treated like their counterparts in the state civil service.
The last notice that culminated in the indefinite strike was served on the government on June 21, where they gave the state government one month to meet teachers’ demands, adding that one week after the expiration of the deadline, they would down tools.
More than two weeks since the strike action by teachers started, the state government is yet to initiate negotiations on how to address the issue.
Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in the state, Theophilus Nweke, said it was the second time in two months public primary school teachers were embarking on industrial action over non-payment of salaries.
He said government had not made any concrete commitment to pay the minimum wage and its consequential adjustments. Nweke alleging that government had attempted to cajole them into suspending the strike by approving payment of minimum wage for workers in grade levels one to six in the affected sector, said it was sad that pupils in public primary schools could not participate in terminal examinations that could determine their promotion to the next class as the academic calendar was disrupted by the strike. He, however, said the labour unions would not fall for such bait, as those that fell within such range were insignificant.
ALTHOUGH Anambra State government said that it is not owing teachers in both primary and secondary schools any salary or arrears, there were protests by some teachers against termination of their appointment by the state government, alleging that they were owed seven months salary arrears.
According to one of the affected teachers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, they were engaged by the Parents Teachers Association (PTA), and converted to permanent staff in Anambra State schools.
He said that the teachers protested against their sack by governor Charles Soludo, taking their complaints to the House of Assembly to prevail on the executive to reinstate them.
“We were engaged by the PTA to address the acute shortage of teachers in state’s primary and secondary schools. Some of us have worked for over 10 years before the last administration decided to hold a recruitment and conversion exercise to make us permanent staff.
“About 1000 of us were shortlisted and we got our appointment letters in November 2021 to resume fully, but for over seven months, we have not been paid and have just been told that our appointments have been terminated.
“We were asked to go and re-apply in the ongoing online teachers’ recruitment. This is not fair, we were not paid off and stranded because they are sending us back to the labour market after we were duly employed.”
MUCH as Rivers State is among the few states not owing teachers salaries, it has not promoted or employed new teachers, according to Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
Chairman of Rivers State Civil Society Organisations (RIVSCO), Enefa Georgewill, lamented that most schools in the hinterlands were hugely understaffed and rely mostly on corps members to teach.
Georgewill also called on the government to recruit more teachers and promote those due for promotion, saying no teacher has been promoted in the last seven years in the state. Besides, there is equally no replacement of retiring teachers.
DELTA State chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Titus Okotie, has expressed concern over non-implementation of N30, 000 minimum wage to primary school teachers.
Okotie told The Guardian in Asaba that though the salary is regular, local government authorities are playing politics with teachers’ salary by deliberately refusing to capture them in the new minimum wage scale. He said following series of protests against the councils to effect the change, the state government waded in and subsidised it by 50 per cent to douse tension. Okotie said they embarked on another round of protest to remind government of the need to do the needful.
EKITI teachers have expressed mixed reactions over backlogs of unpaid salaries and other allowances.
The state university teachers described the situation as near hopeless, wondering when their nine months’ salary arrears would be paid, while accusing government of paying lip service to education funding.
Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), EKSU chapter, Dr Kayode Arogundade, in a telephone interview with The Guardian, said: “No university in Nigeria, whether Federal or state, is being owed less than eight months. The government is paying lip service to education and you know why. It is because none of their children go to school here.
“In EKSU, we have half salary of 12 months outstanding and another nine months. For more than 24 months, we have pension deductions that are not remitted. The last we heard from the governor, because we wrote him, was that he would have a meeting with the management and other stakeholders in the university where we will chat a way forward, we are still waiting for him.”
The primary school teachers expressed hope that the new governor would defray their outstanding four months salaries inherited from previous administration of Kayode Fayemi, saying the incumbent governor, Abiodun Oyebanji, had already demonstrated commitment by paying one month from the arrears.
Also, Oke Emmanuel, said: “Ekiti teachers are very hopeful that the four months outstanding salaries will be paid by the new administration. He had already started on a brighter note. In less than one month in office, the governor paid one month from the arrears. Let me give you a background to the issue. Salaries were paid as at when due throughout the four years of Governor Fayemi.
“The administration of Ayodele Fayose left with six months unpaid salary arrears. Fayemi was able to pay one out of it, while the incumbent has also paid one despite paucity of funds, we are hopeful that before the end of this year, he would pay the remaining arrears.”
WITH nine days to Christmas and New Year celebrations, teachers in Ondo State have appealed to the state government to offset the backlog of salaries owed them.
According to findings, teachers in public secondary schools are being owed two months salaries. A teacher at Fiwasaye Secondary School, who chose to remain anonymous, said the only way she would celebrate Christmas is for the state government to pay the outstanding salaries. She said most of her colleagues had been repaying loans, which they collected to survive.
“Honestly, surviving has really been a challenge because most of my colleagues have been living on loans. Our only hope is for Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to pay outstanding salaries before Christmas. If he pays, definitely we’ll sort out many things. It has not been easy for us.”
Another teacher, Mr Tomisin David, said the situation has taken a toll on him as he finds it difficult to provide for his family. Describing the situation as unbearable, David appealed to government to look into their plight, saying if the arrears are paid, he will be able to provide adequately for his family.
Similarly, lecturers at the state-owned Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo (RUGIPO) have not been paid since December 2021.
A lecturer, who gave his name as Afolabi, described the situation as pathetic, saying he has taken to cab driving for survival.
“For us to have survived to this time is still a miracle. We have not been paid for months. At the moment, on weekends, I come to Akure to use my car for Bolt and Uber.
“I think government should take over payment of salaries in RUGIPO, instead of waiting for subvention. Last year, we celebrated Christmas and the New Year in hunger, and it appears the same scenario will play out this year because there is no sign that we will be paid.
At Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA), lecturers are being owed for five months.
A lecturer in the department of History and International Studies, who pleaded anonymity, said the school is also not remitting check-off dues of members to cooperative societies, which has forced many members to leave the system.
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Ademola Bamidele-Olateju, said the state government is making efforts to settle all outstanding arrears.
Already, the commissioner said part of the arrears has been paid, while efforts are being made to clear outstanding ones.
REACTING, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Labour Matters, Adebayo Titilola-Sodo, said the government does not owe salaries. She noted that since the present administration came on board, it has been paying 100 per cent subvention.
However, because of promotion, Titilola-Sodo said the subvention is no longer sufficient. “We have been paying 100 per cent of subvention we agreed upon, but we still have to make room to make provision for the extra occasioned by the promotion. We have paid all arrears we met on ground.
“Primary school teachers are paid from one purse, while secondary school teachers get paid from another purse. However, she said there are deductions from salaries, which have not been remitted.”
PRIMARY school teachers in Kogi State usually receive between 30 and 40 per cent salaries since the administration of Capt. Idris Wada. However, in May this year, the state executive council directed 100 per cent salary payment for teachers.
A primary school teacher, who pleaded anonymity, also noted that the problem of percentage salary payment started way back to the administration of Capt. Idris Wada, but however regretted that all efforts to resolve it proved abortive.
The state executive council lamented the pains being suffered by primary school teachers for more than a decade over percentage payment and assured of its readiness to end the nasty development. He assured that government would continue to give priority attention to teachers’ welfare.
Relatedly, coalition of civil society organisations, Kogi NGOs Network (KONGONET), also appealed to Kogi State government to take welfare of primary school teachers seriously.He said non-payment of full salaries to basic education teachers across the state calls for concern.
The coalition noted that payment of full salaries would ensure that indigent children, who mostly patronise these schools, are attended to.