Akpabio's “Uncommon Transformation” And The Suffering Of Primary School Teachers In Akwa Ibom State
By Inibehe Effiong
If there is a class of civil servants in Akwa Ibom State that have been
perennially marginalized, deeply stigmatized and greatly insulted, it is
teachers in the about 1110 public primary schools in the state. Their story
is a tragic reminder of the agonizing era of slavery when slave-workers who
devoted the totality of their lives to the service of slave masters and the
society were never properly appreciated and compensated.
Unlike their counterparts in public secondary schools, primary school
teachers in Akwa Ibom State are relegated by the state government to a
point that silence is no longer golden. It is as if they have sinned
against God and humanity. The current travails of these oppressed teachers
cannot be exhaustively addressed in this piece, it will require writing a
textbook if one were to attempt an exhaustive narrative of their travails.
But for the purpose of this essay, few examples will suffice.
How does one explain the fact that till now, the third week of August 2014,
teachers in public primary schools in Akwa Ibom State are yet to be paid
their meagre salaries for the months on June and July 2014. How can a
government that prides itself as being pro-people owe those who have the
historic task of laying a foundation for our children's education for two
months? These are people with families to cater for, people who do not have
any other serious source of income.
The state government has equally been very unconcerned about other welfare
components of these teachers such as; belated reflection of promotion in
salary, leave grant, pension and gratuity, etcetera. For instance, primary
school teachers who were recruited in 2001 whose promotion was due in 2010
only received their promotion arrears in 2013. Promotion in the state's
civil service is every three years. Thus, those teachers who were recruited
in 2001 were due for another promotion in 2013, but till date, this has not
reflected in their salaries.
Before now, promotion for these teachers was based on year of
'certification' and employment but the Godswill Akpabio regime in its sense
of justice has now changed it to solely year of employment. Meaning that
prior to now, a teacher who acquired his qualifying certificate (usually
the National Certificate of Education, NCE) say in 2007 will be step(s)
ahead of a teacher who acquired his in 2006 in the salary scale,
notwithstanding that both were employed the same year. But now, both are
being promoted solely based on year of employment.
Presently, the leave grant of these teachers for year 2013 and 2014 has not
been paid. That of 2012 was only paid by the government after much
bickering and pressure from the teachers. Primary school teachers who had
retired from the state's civil service in 1991 till date have not been paid
their gratuity. Many of them have died while waiting to receive the fruits
of their life time labour.
The state government in an attempt to avoid accepting responsibility and
blame has serially made untenable and non cogent excuses. The government
has advance an irresponsible alibi by shifting the blame to local
government councils in the state. The excuse of the state government is
that salaries for primary school teachers is funded jointly by the state
and local governments and that the state government have always made their
counterpart funds available on time. This excuse on the face of it look
sensible, but a critical appraisal of the situation shows that the state
government is being economical with the truth.
It should be stated that the State Joint Local Government Account created
by Section 162 (6) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria (as amended) from which the salaries of these teachers are drawn is
constitutionally under the exclusive control of the state government. The
question is: has governor Godswill Obot Akpabio been remitting funds
standing to the credit of local government councils in the state to them as
and when or has he been deducting same? Let Akpabio answer this question
with relevant documents, facts figures and the whole world will know who is
telling the truth and who should be held liable for the suffering of these
teachers. This is a challenge.
Also, the state government has been hiding under the notorious veil of
endless “verification exercise” as the reason for delay in payment of
salary to primary school teachers. This is itself ludicrous. What is the
government always verifying year in, year out? Presently, the state
government is hiding under yet another nebulous verification exercise (this
time biometric) as the reason for not paying these poor teachers their
salaries for the months of June and July. How come that their secondary
schools counterparts are not being subjected to the same tormenting
The State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) which is legally
responsible for the recruitment and welfare of primary school teachers has
become a very clandestine and unaccountable entity for “empowering”
political allies. The board has been severally accused of corruption by
teachers and public commentators. A teacher in one of the primary schools
in Uyo, the state capital, bluntly told this writer that SUBEB is a trading
center where only the highest bidder gets attention.
Sadly, the state branch of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) is almost
worse than useless. NUT in Akwa Ibom is anything but a union. Successive
leadership of the body seems to be trading away the rights and privileges
of primary school teachers for 40 pieces of silver.
While delivering a paper titled: “Transforming Nigeria's Economy:
Opportunities and Challenges” on Saturday 31st May, 2014 at the Babcock
University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, the Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi
Okonjo-Iweala, had listed Akwa Ibom State as the first among the 10 highest
revenue receiving states in the country. She put the total amount of
allocation to the state from the Federation Account for year 2013 at 260
billion naira. Further analysis of this amount according to the Minister
shows that the state allocation during the year exceeded the budgets of
most neighbouring countries like Liberia, Gambia, among others. The state
is still leading other states in revenue. The question is; where is our
Admittedly, the Godswill Akpabio-led government has made appreciable impact
in infrastructural development, but then, it will be wrong to rate and
assess the performance of a government without a dispassionate reference to
indices like revenue, land mass and population.
So much has been said about the much publicised “free and compulsory
education” of the Akpabio's administration, but very little objective
attention has been paid to the quality of this education and the welfare of
teachers, particularly primary school teachers. For me, the welfare of
teachers in the state represents the true face of the free and compulsory
education policy of Governor Akpabio. There are myriads of inadequacies in
that policy ranging from poor infrastructure to lack of proper supervision.
But those are issues for another day.
It is unthinkable that a man who recently sponsored a Bill and compelled
the State House of Assembly to pass same into law which entitles him to 200
million naira annual pay in pension with other ostentatious benefits after
office will be owing primary school teachers their stipends. What a sad
commentary, such a wicked world!
I am not oblivious of the likely reaction of the governor, his yes men and
praise singers to this article, but I am more mindful of the verdict of
history. These teachers have suffered enough, their tears is my zeal. We
cannot be talking about uncommon transformation when those who strive to
lay a foundation for the next generation are crying to bed with empty
A labourer deserves his wages. If not for anything, governor Akpabio should
act now in memory and honour of his late mother who was also a primary
school teacher. It will be disastrous to allow the next administration
inherit the problems besetting primary school teachers in the state. And
the time to act is now.
Inibehe Effiong < https://www.facebook.com/inibehe.effiong > is a Human
Rights Activist. He can be reached via [email protected] or
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