From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Teachers of demonstation schools established by the Rivers State-owned tertiary institutions have appealed to the state Governor, Nyesom Wike, to pay them arrears of their five years outstanding salary.
The aggrieved teachers alleged that the governor had directed that names of teachers of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education Demonstration Secondary School, Ndele; Seashell Model Primary School, Port Harcourt; Rivers State University International Secondary and Staff Schools, Port Harcourt, and Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic Comprehensive Secondary School, Bori, be expunged from the state government’s salary voucher.
They claimed that the directive affected over 250 teachers and that this has been going on since the governor’s resumption in office over five years ago.
Speaking in Port Harcourt, Tuesday, the aggrieved teachers said following the stoppage of their salaries, they made entreaties to the governor through the “Commissioner for Education, Prof Kaniye Ebeku; Head of Service, Barr. Godwin Rufus; the Chairman, Rivers State Council of Chiefs and several others to no avail”.
They said that “when the entreaties failed, teachers, for fear of losing their jobs approached the National Industrial Court for arbitration. “While the case lasted, teachers continued the entreaties and wrote letters to well-meaning Rivers State indigenes as well as a few national figures for their intervention without anyone pitying them. Teachers ssid they also approached religious leaders in the state, but all those proved abortive.
“The governor’s decision was predicted on the reason that the schools collected school fees and directed that the teachers be paid therefrom. “The directive ignored the obvious facts that the teachers have same appointment letters with the rest staff of the tertiary institution and know nothing about how the school fees collected by the university or institutions management were used, and we are not signatories to the accounts into which the fees are paid”.
The teachers who disclosed that they had put in over 25 years of service as at the time they were excluded from receiving salaries, stressed that they have no regrets to be in the profession, but sad that “the schools known for effective manpower development in Rivers state in particular, are fast becoming a shadow of themselves under Wike’s regime”.
They recalled that the National Industrial Court had on June 13, 2018, delivered judgement in their favour, stating that “the governor’s directive stopping the payment of teachers salaries is unlawful, null and void”.
The teachers also revealed that the state government appealed the judgement, adding that the appeal was struck out on October 31, 2020 by Justice Ita G. Mbaba’s Court of Appeal in Owerri for lack of merit.
Mrs Dorathy Osia, representing the affected teachers from Rivers State University International Secondary School and Staff Schools, expressed that “If you look at where we are now, it is like saying that we are almost dead.
“Many of my colleagues are suffering from one illness or the other, and we are pleading with the governor that we are all Rivers sons and daughters, and that he should please reconsider and pay us our arrears of salary.
“We can not fight him, we do not have any means to fight but we are pleading with him that he should reconsider and pay us, because if he doesn’t pay us, we will carry our children, and whatever we have and go to Government House, live there, until he settles our years of unpaid salaries.
“So, we are begging him that he should please help us so that we will not get to the stage of being desperate to get our salary”.
Also speaking with our correspondent, Mr U. Anthony, representing teachers of Kenule Tsaro-Wiwa Polytechnic Demonstration Secondary School, Bori, lamented that “for these past five years, it has been very difficult for us to go through challenges of waking up each day to see that you are not paid salary in your place of work.
“We are duly employed, went through interviews and we were seen to be qualified and that is why we were employed.
“For many years some of us have put in the service of the school, all of a sudden we found that we have no income. It has been difficult for us to carry well our families, our children are out of schools because we do not have the resources to continue to assist them.
“I think that with what has happened, the Governor should listen us, this five years has been so horrible, so challenging that going forward extremely will be difficult for us to do so because we are almost at the point of death.
“We are owing people we are not able to pay them, not able to feed. We are making a Clarion call to him, he should come and help pay our salaries”.
Mr Oly Chris Ikulghan, who spoke for the staff of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education Demonstration Secondary School, Ndele and Seashell Model Primary School, Port Harcourt, said: “We have been starved for five years of our salaries. “We are genuine employees of the university and as a result we have lost six teachers in our school not to talk about Rivers State University where we lost about four teachers, in Bori we lost about one since the fight started.
“We don’t want more death, we are praying the Governor to please he should act responsibly like the federal government pay teachers their respective salaries”.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Rivers State Civil Society Organisations (RIVCSO), Mr Enefaa Georgewill, has urged the governor to look at the plight of the teachers and pay them their salaries.
He said “If anybody should be held accountable, it should be those who are managing the institutions and not ordinary teachers who are employed just like any other Civil servant”.
“We are joining the teachers to plead that the Rivers State government pay the salaries of these teachers on or before the end of February otherwise, we will have no other choice than to join the teachers to protest”.