The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Ogun State branch on Friday backed local government autonomy but pleaded for the placement of primary school teachers’ salaries on the first line charge of either the Federal or State Government.
The teachers who staged a protest to the Governor’s office and the State House of Assembly, pointed out that local councils as constituted in the country could not afford to pay the teachers’ wages.
They carried placards with various inscriptions such as “Basic Education is a Right and must be Protected by all”, “Payment of Primary School Teachers Salary must not be Toyed with ” and ” Our Children Future must be Secured ” among others.
The State NUT Chairman, Mr Titi Adebanjo who led the protesting teachers, said that the protest was directed by the national leadership of NUT having considered the recent agitation for council autonomy in the country.
He said that it was necessary to reaffirm the position of NUT that payment of salaries of primary school teachers be taken over by the Federal and State government to prevent the sector from imminent collapse.
Adebanjo noted that the concern of the leadership of NUT was the damaging consequences of handing over of primary education to councils, should the agitation for autonomy be granted.
“We are not totally against local government autonomy. We are concerned about the likelihood of consigning primary education to local government councils which neither have the financial capacity nor political will to fund and manage primary schools in the country.
“Presently, primary school teachers are being owed salaries for months in a number of states due to the inability of the local government councils to provide funds for payment of salaries of teachers.
“This may create a situation of demoralisation and hopelessness. This unwholesomeness situation is not likely to abate soon. This potends danger for public primary education and the future of under privileged children in the country, ” he said.
Addressing the protesters, Governor Ibikunle Amosun said he acknowledged the contribution of teachers towards the socio-economy development of the State.
Amosun emphasised that he was not against local government autonomy but insisted that he would not be a party to any arrangement that would not guarantee regular payment of teachers’ salaries.
The Governor said, “I am not against local government autonomy but I will not be a party to whatever arrangement that will delay the payment of teachers salaries or that will not guarantee regular payment of their salaries.
“I am not against local government autonomy what I am saying is this, autonomy that you are giving without the necessary wherewithal will cause chaos because even as we speak today, local governments with what is coming from the Federal Government, cannot pay their staff salaries.
“So if you teachers within the length and breadth of Nigeria feel that putting you under the local government will bring what I call insecurity, particularly on how you are going to be paid at the end of the month then I think it calls for concern.
“I’m sure that those in charge of making the law when they are even enacting the law will look into that aspect.”
“I don’t see anything wrong in even creating the first line charge for our teachers so I align completely with what you said but I’m not against local government autonomy.”
At the assembly complex, Mr Suraj Adekunbi, the Speaker, assured the teachers that its request for the take-over of payment of its teachers by the government would be included in the course of the ongoing constitutional review.
The Speaker explained that the constitutional amendment by the National Assembly was a public affair aimed at further strengthening all sectors of the nation’s economy