Ex-service men shelve planned protest over non-payment of pension arrears
Omololu Ogunmade and Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The Senate on Tuesday expressed grave concern over the persistent failure of state governments to pay teachers’ salaries and urged the federal government to immediately enter into negotiations with such states with a view to presenting an effective comprehensive intervention scheme that will address the trend to the National Assembly.
The parliament also tasked the federal, state and local governments to immediately take necessary steps towards the payment of all outstanding salary arrears they owe teachers.
It also urged the states to immediately begin the implementation of a priority expenditure scheme that would equate the payment of teachers’ salaries with public expenditure such as security.
The resolutions were the aftermath of a motion by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) in which he observed that basic education is a concurrent issue which he described as the basic responsibility of both the states and local governments but currently requires the prompt intervention of the federal government to avert a total collapse of the nation’s educational system.
Melaye further argued that a situation where some states owe teachers their salaries for five months and beyond, implies that “what we have in our hands with this situation is a national emergency that requires drastic measures to halt the drift.”
Describing teachers’ welfare as the heartbeat of the success of the education system, Melaye said the ongoing suffering of teachers and students in the public schools can be remedied if only leaders at all levels rise to address the situation.
He recalled how the federal government presented bail out funds to 23 states with the payment of teachers’ salaries as the main drive of the federal government’s action adding that the adverse effects of owing teachers would be a nationwide strike which he said would result in mass exodus of experienced teachers from public to private schools.
In his contribution to the motion, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, described as a paradox, a situation where the federal government is currently attempting to recruit 500,000 fresh teachers when those in current employment are actually not paid. According to him, it is not right to hire more hands without any plan of action for their payment.
Also speaking, Senator Ali Wakili (Bauchi South) lamented that a number of teachers can no longer shoulder their primary responsibilities in their families because they are not paid.
Describing the motion as timely, Wakili challenged state governors to prioritise payment of teachers the same way they prioritise their security.
However, he differed from Ekweremadu’s submission that it was wrong of the federal government to hire 500,000 teachers without a roadmap for their payment, saying the new federal government’s policy on teachers’ recruitment was a completely different situation from what was being debated.
In his remark, Senate President Bukola Saraki described the trend as a pitiful situation which he said required the appropriate involvement and collaboration of the federal, state and local governments.
Noting that the situation must not be allowed to continue, Saraki mandated the committees on education to ensure that the resolutions passed are followed up with a view to ensuring that the right thing is done about payment of teachers’ arrears.
Meanwhile, the Association of Ex-Service Pensioners has disassociated itself and also condemned the plan by a group of military retirees to embark on a protest as a result of non-payment of pension arrears and refusal to harmonise their allowances.
The President of the Association, Col. Ahmed Zubair (rtd), at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, said that the ex-military pensioners had dialogued with the federal government through the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), and presented their case to them.
Zubair who was in the company of the National Coordinator of the Association, Col. Henry Ikoghode (rtd), said that they gave federal government a list of the areas to take adequate action to remedy the pension anomalies pointed out by the military retirees.
He said that those who had planned to embark on the protest were “ill-informed” and that no group should claim to be speaking or acting on behalf of the entire military pensioners.
“It is therefore illogical for any group to start embarking on any form of protests now that the Government appears to be taking genuine steps towards solving the Military Pensions Problem,” he said.