Rivers State Teachers protesting five years of unpaid salaries at the state Government House in Port Harcourt.
From Blessing Ibunge,Port Harcourt
Teachers of Primary and Secondary schools of Rivers State owned Tertiary Institutions on Wednesday, barricaded the state Governor Nyesom Wike’s convey from entering the government House in Port Harcourt.
The convey was only allowed to enter the government House through the exit root.
The about 255 teachers that promised to be protesting their unpaid five years salaries until their voices are heard, turned the state Government House into a prayerground for God’s intervention and pleading that the governor should reduce their years of suffering.
The unpaid teachers who are from Ignatius Ajuru University of Education Demonstration Secondary School, Ndele and 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 in Khana Local Government Area as at Wednesday, are still active in service but allegedly denied five years salaries.
The aggrieved teachers accused Governor Nyesom Wike of expunging their names from the state government salary voucher about five years now.
The teachers are demanding that the state Governor should obey the National Industrial Court Order that directed that they should be paid their salaries and the subsequent order of the Court of Appeal in Owerri, which acknowledged them as genuine and qualified teachers of the state owned schools, thereby urged the state Governor also to pay the teachers their outstanding salaries.
The placards carrying teachers during protest at the Government House, Port Harcourt recalled that the National Industrial Court had on June 13, 2018, delivered the 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 led court of Appeal in Owerri over lack of merit.
Chairman of the Parents Teachers Association of the schools, Mr Golden Spiff, urged the governor to consider the plight of the teachers and pay them.their years of salaries, stressing saying that some of the unpaid teachers have died following untold hardship and inability to medically take care of their health conditions.
He lamented that the state has enough money to care for its citizens, especially teachers who gives so much to build the future of the state.
He said: “Court has ordered the Governor to pay us our salaries but he doesn’t want to pay. As I speak to you Rivers State has too much money, Soku Oil Well that was taken is back, the former governor was paying us until the arrival of Nyesom Wike.
“Why the pains and suffering on Rivers people. The other time we came here, we were told he went to commission a flyover, now we are here again and they told us he is not around again, are you now afraid of the Government House. We will wait untill he returns to the Government House?
The protesting teachers who were in the sun for hours demanding for their salaries were shouting “Wike pay us, you have children, there is life after power. You cannot continue to maltreat us like this and your children are going to the best schools, you are eating well everyday”.
Also speaking during the protest, Chairman of Rivers State Civil Society Organisations (RIVCSO), Mr Enefaa Georgewill, said the teachers will continue to protest at the government every month until the government clears their years of unpaid salaries.
He urged the state Governor, Nyesom Wike to consider the plight of the teachers and pay them years of their unpaid salaries, stressing that it would be evil and wickedness not to consider the pains and sufferings of the teachers.
According to the activist, “As a member of the body of the benchers and automatically a lawyer, unfortunately he has refused to obey the courts order directing him to pay the teachers till today.
“When we came here last month, the Government House CSO promised the.protesting teachers that he is going to communicate the government and that he is sure we will have no need to come here again because we have told them we are coming back this month. Surprisingly, the government has neither paid the salaries or invited the teachers to discuss the issue.
“It is pathetic to say the list and evil at worst that a man who came through the court can violate the orders of the Industrial Court Owerri and Court of Appeal. If it is not shameful, I wonder what it is.
“But let us remind the governor that he hold these teachers the statutory duty to pay them. We have come to realize that this governor and government likes to pay in tokenism where they will clap for it. Just recently, the Rivers State governor dished out five hundred million naira (N500, 000.000.00) Rivers people money to Sokoto government, the state Governor joined other PDP Governors to donate to Zamfara state because of fire incident in one of their markets, meanwhile our governor has not said anything concerning the fire incidents in four of our markets or visited the victims.
“While the governor has not paid these teacher, he gave out Ten million naira each to over 20 musicians for merely performing their trades that they have been paid for. We owe no grudge against those musicians but that the government should invest heavily in the entertainment sector in the state to revive it, so that the artists in the state will not go to Lagos State.
“Instead of doing this tokenism, the governor should pay the statutory salaries of the teachers. The governor does not want to pay because if he pays nobody will because is doing it’s statutory duty. Some of the teachers have put over 25 and 30 years in this profession, it is evil and wicked for a governor to withhold money that is not his and refused to pay the teachers”.
Enefaa assured that the teachers will not stop protesting until their years of salaries are paid.
“We are telling the governor that we will not rest until the governor pays the teachers their salaries. Next month we will continue with the protest until the governor adhere to the cry of the suffering teachers.”
However, neither the governor nor government officials addressed the aggrieved protesters after hours of demanding for their right from the state government.