Laleye Dipo reports on the challenges in the takeoff of the Niger State NUT social security scheme, Endwell, and what it has achieved in a short time

When about a decade ago, the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in Niger State introduced what is now known as ‘Endwell Scheme’ many union members kicked against the implementation of the policy. This is in spite of the fact that the policy is to make the teachers who are members of the union to start reaping their reward here on earth instead of waiting to get the benefits when they get to heaven or waiting for handouts from government.

The Endwell scheme was therefore necessitated by the fact that the main employer of teachers, governments, have neglected their responsibilities to this important segment of the nation’s labour force.

The opposition to the policy may be justified because it meant deduction from the lean pay of the union members to propel the programme. This, coupled with the failure of such policies by the government especially the National Housing Fund Scheme that has hit the rocks, and the reluctance by government to refund the contributions made by contributors partly accounted for the vehement opposition to the idea.

Some leaders in their vociferous opposition to the policy approached the courts to ask for a stoppage of the scheme. These antagonists as they were referred to then also prepared a strong petition which was tabled before the then incoming administration of former Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu. Aliyu fortunately was a founding father of the NUT and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state and believed in better life for teachers/workers now and in the future, as such did not use his executive powers to stop the programme from taking off. Dr. Aliyu was said to have professionally managed the situation to the extent that those aggrieved sheathed their swords even when they were not 100 per cent convinced that they should participate in the programme.

The Endwell Scheme is a cooperative movement where members contribute according to their financial power and can pull out of the group at anytime. Similarly a member can draw loans far beyond his or her contribution to solve social and economic challenges that the commercial banks or government cannot immediately remedy or would be delayed in getting solution to.

To allay the fears of the major antagonists of the scheme therefore, respected members of the public some of them one time teachers who have also gone through the problems teachers faced daily were brought into the management of the scheme. The acceptance of Hajia Dije Bala a seasoned administrator and one time teacher to serve as the chairperson of the Endwell Scheme Board of Trustees and involvement of Comrade Labaran Garba who has been tested, trusted and found to be above board as a Secretary of the NUT in the state and others in their category soothed some nerves and allowed the programme to take off smoothly.

“The road has not been smooth, people thought it was an “abracadabra”, the Police, the ICPC were used to haunt us, if EFCC had existed then, they would have sent them (EFCC) after us.

“We however continued to march on because we were convinced that we have to do something for teachers whether they are in service or out of service,” said.

This determination by members of the Board no doubt made the scheme to record the huge success it has been able to achieve within this short period. The Endwell Scheme has now become a giant cooperative society with branches in the 25 local government areas of the state. Its acceptability is evidenced in the patronage the cooperative outfit has now received. From a meager membership of less than 1000 about 10 years ago, the scheme can now boast of more than 27,145 members and it is still daily attracting interest from teachers in primary and secondary schools in the state.

Over the years also, the Endwell Scheme has been able to positively touch the lives of 18, 565 of its members by way of giving them soft loans in materials and cash valued at N795, 471, 945.00. These loans included financial assistance for the payment of members’ children school fees, payment of medical hospital bills of members, opening facilities for them to own landed properties, building materials electronics and other home appliances like deep freezers, refrigerators, motorcycles and industrial sewing machines. It is important to stress here that not a kobo of government is in the loans and assistance given to its members by the Endwell programme.

As a result of these financial supports, many members of the Endwell Scheme are now proud owners of small businesses, return from which they apply to solve their immediate personal and family problems.

The Endwell Scheme has also invested a lot in developed and undeveloped landed property in Bida, Kotangora, Suleja and Minna. Some of these landed property are again released to teachers who are members of the scheme at rates far below the amount they were purchased. This property policy has made hundreds of teachers proud owners of their own houses, some have even become landlords.

If all these achievements are personal to teachers and cannot be physically seen apart from the change in their lifestyles, one remarkable success recorded by the Endwell Scheme which is visible to all and which has now become a reference point in the society is the establishment of the Endwell Micro-Finance Bank and Endwell Primary School.

The Endwell Microfinance Bank started which a few years ago has developed rapidly to the extent that it now employs over 30 workers. With its vision of becoming the foremost Microfinance Bank, demand-driven services and wealth creation, the Endwell Microfinance bank is one of the very few of such institutions that has not gone under in the state. The liberal policies of the bank have also made more teachers and traders to now patronise the bank.

The same can be said of the Endwell Model Primary School which was inaugurated by former Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu just over a year ago which has turned to be the primary school of first choice by parents for their children. This is not only because of the serene environment of the school but as a result of the quality of its teachers and teaching apparatus.

The intention of the Endwell Board of trustees according to Bala is to develop the school to a secondary school and in the long run a tertiary institution.

The tractor hiring scheme also established some two years ago by the Endwell programme has also been of assistance to teachers who take to farming as a hobby and other members of the general public who have easy access to the tractors than those of the government.

Recently, the scheme again distributed loan materials and landed property to its members at a colourful ceremony where some of those in attendance doubted if it was the NUT that was sharing out the items because of the quantity and quality of the goods given out.

Some of these observers felt it was the government that was dolling out materials to its supporters as political patronage.

Not less than N400, 000, 000.00 worth of loan items including 832 plots of land, each 100 x 100 in size, building materials, household utensils such as deep freezers, home electronics equipment, industrial machines, water pumping machines for dry season farmers, laptop computers among others were distributed to 4,200 members of the cooperative group in the 25 local government areas of the state.

Bala said at the ceremony that “this single act will have multiplier positive effect on the lives of family members and communities of the beneficiaries in all the 25 local government areas of the state”.

She declared “in view of the landmarks recorded so far by the Endwell Scheme, it is evident that the Nigeria Union of Teachers Niger State wing is no doubt a critical stakeholder not only in the field of enhancing the provision of sound educational standard but also as a complementary agent towards enhancing the socio-economic empowerment of her teeming members and the entire Nigerlites in general.”

This view was shared by the State Acting Governor Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Ketso when he said, “The success story of the NUT we are witnessing today is not by accident but a rather conscious effort to provide basic social security services for its members and by implication the society at large.”

“I am indeed proud of the Nigeria Union of Teachers Niger State Wing that has since grown into an enviable status with several landmark achievements, as a person who recognises unionism I am happy to identify with the NUT, particularly the Teachers Welfare Scheme – Endwell”

Ketso advised the beneficiaries to be judicious in the utilisation of the items given to them and “ensure prompt payment so that others will benefit too”.

State Chairman of the NUT Comrade Ibrahim Umar did not allow the joy of the day to take him away from the problems teachers and the teaching profession is facing in the state and quickly reminded the Acting Governor of the need to raise the career status of teachers to “Tutors General on Grade Level 17.”

Umar also asked the government to increase the retirement age of teachers from 60- 65 years” as their counterparts in tertiary institutions”.

Another issue which did not escape the attention of the Union leaders who graced the ceremony is the vexed 7.5 per cent pension scheme deductions from workers pay and the demand for the refund to the contributors of the amount so far contributed.

State NLC Chairman Comrade Yahaya Idris Ndako while debunking the claims by government that the resources to fuel the old pension scheme was not available maintained that government should first repeal the contributory pension scheme law and from there “we will know what to do”.
“Money or no money, repeal the Law we will negotiate and see how we spread the money,” Ndako insisted.

Senior Assistant Secretary of the NUT Comrade Labaran Garba while closing the event assured teachers in the state that “we will continue to hold the trust teachers have in us” with a closing prayer that “everyone, every worker should Endwell”.