This incessant FCT teachers’ strike must stop!

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Factual Pursuit of Truth for Progress

For over a month, government-owned primary schools in the Federal Capital Territory have remained closed. Yet again, teachers in the nation’s capital have resorted to industrial action to press home their grievances.

Under the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), they are requesting the implementation of outstanding entitlements. The teachers are protesting non-implementation of promotion arrears from 2014 to 2018; non-implementation of 2020 and 2021 yearly increments; upgrade of qualified teachers as well as non-implementation of the 24-month Federal Government approved minimum wage arrears.

Although it is well in their rights to seek redress, not when it is at the detriment of others. NUT’s frequent strike has taken a further hit on an educational system yet to recover from the ruins of the coronavirus. Innocent children are the victims.

In the last year, the FCT NUT has embarked on strike on multiple occasions – most notably thrice between November and this year. First, the body shut down schools for five days in November. They would subsequently embark on an indefinite strike that lasted almost a fortnight, accusing the area council chairmen of ignoring their demands.

The current industrial action began on January 23, well on track for another month. Put together, pupils have been forced to stay at home for almost two months since November.

Secretary of the FCT NUT, Magret Jethro, said they had given the Area Council Chairmen time to make good their promises, adding that the chairman had been playing a fast one on the union.

She vowed that the teachers would not resume classes if their promotion arrears from 2015, backlogs of annual increment , 25 month minimum wage arrears and other allowances were not paid.

“We reached them before resuming the strike. It was like they were not ready for us. This is a struggle that has been going on for a long time. You would recall that we went on strike over the same issues last year. The FCT minister and other stakeholders intervened“ she said.

“At that meeting, they pleaded that they needed time for them to look into what we presented and speak with their accountant so that they would come up with a workable template. On that note, we dispersed and agreed to meet on December 13 , 2021.

“They have paid all the arrears of the secondary school teachers and most of these primary school teachers share the same compound with them, how do you expect them to feel?”

On his part, FCT chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, Adamu Mustapha, described the decision by the achers to resume their strike as unfair. According to him, Area Council chairmen are making frantic efforts to offset these arrears which he said they are aware of.

He said, “We have said we would conditionally clear these backlog of arrears. They went ahead to declare strike after we had several meetings with them where this issue was tabled.

“I want to believe this is unfair. Even myself and another area council chairman pleaded with them to give us more time so that we are working on a template to pay this money gradually.“

Meanwhile, the Universal Basic Education (FCT UBE) said they are not owing FCT teachers salaries to warrant them to embark on indefinite strike. Dr. Alhassan Sule, Executive Chairman, FCT UBE Board said he was surprised to receive a letter from the NUT secretariat about the strike, noting that all teachers under its payroll have been paid. So who or what exactly is the problem?

We have learnt that the Area Council chairmen are adamant to meet the demands of the teachers as funds have already been made available to them by the FCT administration. We gathered that these chairmen held on to the funds as they feared for the outcome of the council polls.

The sum of N45 billion was released to the six area councils between January and December 2021. This was shared with the six chairmen a monthly allocation in the last 12 months.

From January to December 2021, the allocations were: N3.8 billion (January); N3.7 billion (February); N4.1 billion (March).

The area councils further received N2.7 billion (May); N2.7 billion (June); N4.1 billion (July); N4.5 billion (August); N4.7 billion (September) and N4.4 billion (October). The councils also took N3.7 billion (November) and N3.6 billion (December).

Chairman of NUT in the FCT, Mr. Stephen Knabayi, alleged teachers were owed about N14.3 billion arrears from 2015 till date.

Minister of State for FCT, Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, however, assured that a “workable template to offset the debts over a period of time has been put in place, and a seven-man committee to look into the operation of the template will be set up.”

The FCT administration must be proactive and call the chairmen to order. It is an embarrassment to the minister and the entire country that schools in the nation’s capital are closed. This incessant strike must end!

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