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Benue govt urged to prioritize salary payment

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By Timothy Akintola

Children have been the major collateral damages of this non-payment of salaries.

The dilemma of unpaid salaries have been a recurrent problem ravaging the civil service space. This has led to various indefinite strikes among unions such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD). In fact, some states are reported to owe salaries of about six months. Whilst the Labour Union continue to clamor, the government has been immensely complacent in its response to the demands for payment of these unpaid salaries.

Benue state teachers are the latest to come out and air their grievances about the non-payment of salaries. Reports indicate that primary school teachers in the state were being owed a backlog of salaries close to 13 months. Months ago, the Benue State Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, Levi Aguma, after confirming the 13 months owed salary, noted that mode of salary payment was immensely poor. He stated that most teachers were suffering as a result of this complacency which had caused many teachers to resort to petty trading.

Secondary school teachers also owed salaries of about ten months.

These teachers have thus appealed to the state government to consider paying their outstanding salaries, to help ameliorate their current economic travails. Some teachers disclosed that not only were the primary school teachers being owed, but the secondary school teachers were also owed a backlog going back approximately for 10 months. A teacher who wanted to remain anonymous, stated that they were paid for two months in 2017. In 2021 and 2022, salaries were also owed and in this 2023, salaries had not been paid since January. Another teacher, whilst lamenting about the dilemma, noted that she, like most of the other teachers had lost count of the number of months that they were being owed.

She indicated that this situation was not only affecting their well-being but also the quality of education being received by children. She sad that although they were suffering so much and managing to get to school, it was the children who were the major collateral damages of this governmental complacency. In fact, another anonymous teacher disclosed that most of the teachers were facing numerous social and economic challenges which have worsened, as they had now been reduced to borrowing food.

Prioritizing payment of owed salaries to boost the morale of teachers.

This lackadaisical situation has even made many teachers contemplate going back to their villages. A teacher who was teaching at LGEA Primary School, noted that she had to be transferred due to the cost of transportation that she could not afford. With the fuel and cash crunch situation, these teachers have in fact been most affected. They have had to go to work, even without any form of payment for months, with most using their family funds to foot their transport bills.

These teachers however indicated that prioritizing the payment of their salaries would further boost their morale and help the children receive quality education. Also, they urged for teachers to be transferred to schools closer to their home environment, to make it easier for them to make it to and from their places of work. One of the teachers explained that despite being asked about her home address, she was still transferred without recourse to a school very far from her home. She thus begged the state government to help them by transferring them to schools where it would be easier to trek to with the current situation.

NUT urged to be intentional about projecting the welfare of its members.

The teachers called on the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) to be more intentional about projecting the travails and welfarism of its members. Levi Aguma, the NUT Chairman in the state, when contacted, promised to get back as soon as possible but has not. The Benue State Commissioner for Education , Saawuan Tarnongo, also blamed this situation on the prevalent recession and lack of resources from the federal government. He noted that the Governor Ortom’s administration had the teachers’ interest at heart and soon enough, all would be settled.

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