By Faith Igbudu
On Wednesday, members of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) Benue State chapter embarked on a stay-at-home directive, so as to register their grievances to the state government.
Chairman of the union, Comr. Levi Akuma, explained to The Voice that the situation is not a strike but a way of speaking to the government about their August salaries.
He said the stay-at-home order is for two weeks, beginning from Wednesday, October 26 after which the union will review for necessary action.
Akuma lamented that the situation with teachers in the state is so terrible that they can no longer mobilize themselves for work, unless government pays their August salaries.
He said the last Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) in which teachers are supposed to benefit from was held on October 5, but up till date, teachers in the state are yet to be paid.
“We don’t have a strike, strike has its own procedures. The truth is teachers are aggrieved. I cannot hide this, in 2017, teachers were paid only two months that is January and February. From March to December, there was nothing for us.
“The staggered salary affected us. In December 2021, some teachers were paid others were not paid. This repeated in February and March, so I went to the government and they explained that it is because the allocation is not complete that is why they were paying like that.
“Teachers are aggrieved but I’ve been calming them down, but we discovered that during the time of August salary, we sat for that JAAC on the 5th of October and up till today, teachers have not collected their salaries, so they said they are not regarded as workers in the state, they won’t go to work again, because they don’t have transportation fare to go to their places.
“We then went to the government and pleaded with them to at least pay August salaries and if that is not done, we are giving them 24hrs ultimatum, was given on Monday this week after which we will embark on a ‘stay-at-home’ action as we can no longer afford our transportation charges.
“We felt on hearing this, government will swing into action, but to our dismay they did not respond to us. After the ultimatum, we wrote that we are going, this time they made a move by paying teachers in three local governments, Makurdi, Ohimini, Gwer-West.
“But we are talking of teachers in Benue. We are not restricting to any local government. We want payment to the last teacher so the govenment said payment will be made. However, we have made our stance on this matter, immediately payments are confirmed the stay at home order will be called off.
“But the situation is bad. These teachers have children, face the daily struggles of life just like every other Benue worker, yet they are treated very poorly like slaves. We want the govenment to know that this is not good. If you are going to pay at least a months salary, pay it across board,” he stated.
The chairman hinted that there is a 14 day ultimatum given the state government to clear up all arrears that is 10 months in 2017, December 2021, February and March 2022. This ultimatum, he explained is different from the present stay-at-home order that the union has embarked on.
He said the stay-at-home is just for August salaries while the union will follow up that of arrears to a logical end.