Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT)
With the recent strike action by members of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in some states, including Lagos, over the non-implementation of the 27.5 per cent Teachers Peculiar Allowance by the affected state governments, the concerned states have promised to commence the implementation next January. Stakeholders have expressed hope that the agreement will be honoured to avoid strikes in future. Uchechukwu Nnaike and Funmi Ogundare report
The demand for the Teachers Peculiar Allowance dates back to 1992, which had culminated in a general strike when the Federal Government reneged on its promise to implement it that year.
In 1995, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) renewed the clamour which prompted late General Sani Abacha to set up an inter-ministerial committee to advise government on its workability. The Abacha administration announced its readiness to implement it, but reneged on its promise.
In the current democratic dispensation, the union resumed agitation for the allowance. The issue was raised at a Joint Consultative Committee on Education (JCCE) on May 14-17, 2001 in Ilorin. JCCE is made up of federal and state ministries of education and their parastatals.
The JCCE deliberated on the NUT memo, which was submitted to it on June 13-29, 2002 and raised a sub-committee to fine-tune it. The sub-committee then, submitted its report to the committee in 2003 in Ado-Ekiti, while the former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, called for urgent implementation of the TSS.
The report of that sub-committee was accepted and recommended to the National Council on Education (NCE) on October 20-24, 2003 and approved the same year.
The NCE was chaired by former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili and involved the education commissioners and permanent secretaries of the 36 states. The Federal Executive Council (FEC) under former President Olusegun Obasanjo received the NCE approval through a memo by the minister in 2007.
However, the FEC declined to immediately approve the new Teachers' Salary Scale (TSS) and directed that it be forwarded to the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, which is the case when a new compensation structure is being considered.
Having worked out a financially realistic range of allowances, the commission forwarded its recommendations, based on which the Federal Ministry of Education prepared an upwardly reviewed wage budget. The 2008 budget signed by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua before his death, contained provisions for the payment of the TSS to teachers employed by the Federal Government.
After series of industrial actions, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum in 2008, signed an agreement with the union on the 27.5 per cent Teachers Peculiar Allowance. However, after four years, some state governments were either yet to implement or are pushing to jettison the agreement.
According to the union, the action of states like Cross River, Kebbi, Lagos, Ekiti, Kogi, Katsina, Delta, Zamfara, Niger, Abia, Nasarawa, Enugu and Benue that have not begun implementing the agreement showed that they do not respect agreements.
Some of the erring states blamed the non implementation on insufficient funds; they argued that the monthly federal allocation without internally generated revenue is not enough to pay teachers in the state.
Some of them see the payment of the TSS as a forgotten issue since the approval and implementation of the minimum wage by the federal and state governments.
These disagreements led to another strike in Lagos and the other states on Monday September 24, 2012. It was however suspended two days later in Lagos, following the state government’s assurance that the new salary structure would be included in next year’s budget and implementation would start in January.
Teachers and other stakeholders have expressed hope that this would be the last strike to demand full implementation of the agreement reached in 2008.
Chairman of the state chapter of the union, Comrade Kayode Idowu, who thanked Governor Babatunde Fashola for his intervention, expressed hope that the government would keep its promise to enable the system work effectively.
“He promised to incorporate it in the 2013 budget so we agreed that since he has made a promise, then we don’t have any reason to leave the classrooms because any little period left unattended to means we are denying the students a year or two years of knowledge.
“I want to be optimistic that the governor will keep his promise because for him to have left his official assignment in Abuja to be at the meeting to discuss the issue and finalise it, it means that his words must be sacrosanct.”
A lecturer as the Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), Dr. Pat Akumabor, said: “One would have expected that the state should have started earlier, but since it didn’t start earlier, we hope that the governor will keep his promise to pay them and maybe give them some arrears that is when they will be happy, if he doesn’t pay some arrears then it will be meaningless because the teachers have waited for so long.”
A public school teacher, who preferred anonymity, expressed hope that the agreement would be implemented. “It is one thing to include it in the budget and another thing to implement it. Government has been nonchalant about the condition of teachers in the country for too long. There is need for teachers to be given incentives and be happy.”
The teacher expressed concern over the salary package and promotional exercise being conducted, especially for primary school teachers, saying that the salary is poor and that any time a promotion test is conducted, the results are not released till after two or three years.
“I did a promotion examination in 2003, then in level 10 to move to level 12, we did not get the result until 2006, and I was still placed on level 10 salary scale. By the time I got to level 14, the government promised to implement the teachers scale last year, but nothing was done. We are just there because there is no other job.”
Director, Omolewu Academy, Oyo State, Mr. Shegun Omolewu, said the government does not place premium on teachers that is why they always go on strike.
“The government should realise that without teachers, there will be no presidents, senators, and governors. Teachers should be treated better.”
He also stressed the need to professionalise the teaching profession with an entry requirement of bachelors in education at any level, arguing that if the standards are high, and they are well paid and recognised, the country would turn out products that it would be proud of.
A parent, Mr. Jacob Ume, commended the government and the union for reaching a compromise and for not allowing the strike to linger. He appealed to the government not to renege on its promise so teachers would be motivated to do their jobs. “We want to see more improvement in the performance of students that sit for the SSCE UTME and other public examination, but that will depend on the government and teachers.”