Onwuka Nzeshi â€¨in Abujaâ€¨
The ongoing debate on the granting of autonomy to local government councils in the country took a new dimension yesterday as the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) expressed opposition to the idea.
The union said granting financial autonomy to the councils which entails abolishing the State/Local Council Joint Account would be counter-productive to primary education system in the country.
National President of NUT, Comrade Michael Olukoya, gave this view when he led a delegation of the National Executive Council of the union on a courtesy visit to the House of Representatives.
The delegation met with the Speaker of the House, Hon. Amini Tambuwal, where Olukoya made a presentation on the union’s position.
Olukoya said the NUT decided to make its voice heard on the issue of local council autonomy because of its relevance to the funding of primary education in Nigeria.
He said the abolition of State-Local Government Joint Accounts would be a disaster to the teachers especially those in primary schools going by their experiences in the past.
Olukoya recalled that between 1990 and 1994 when primary education was under the control of local governments, teachers were owed salaries of between six to twelve months while those that retired during the period were not paid their pension and gratuities.
“It is therefore our prayers that the House of Representatives would do all it can to persuade its members and the entire National Assembly to retain the State-Local Government Joint Accounts or provide for the salaries of primary school teachers from first line charge from the federation account.
“The only alternative would be to transfer the responsibility for the payment of salaries to the state governments to guarantee uninterrupted and unfettered primary school education in the country,” he said.
The NUT boss also urged the House to intervene in the ongoing crisis in Plateau State where teachers have not received their salaries for about eight months. Olukoya also solicited the support of the House in another industrial crisis in Bauchi State where 10,000 teachers have been laid off.
In response, Tambuwal said the position of the union has enriched the debate and will certainly assist the National Assembly in taking a final decision on the matter.
He noted that before now, the general impression of people had been that most of the state governors were misapplying the funds accruing to the State/Local Government Joint Account and that the councils will fare better if they had financial autonomy.
Tambuwal assured the NUT that the House would assist the union in resolving some of its challenges, particularly the issue of the 27.5 per cent increase in the salaries of the teachers.