The harrowing plight of workers in Kogi States; particularly teachers in public primary schools who are owned salaries arrears ranging between 13 and 25 months has been subject of deafening public outrage in the last couple of weeks.
However, it would appear there is little or no prospect that the anguish of these teachers would come to an end sooner as penchant for dashing their hopes of receiving backlog of unpaid salary arrears has led many families into despair.
Decrying the conditions of primary schools teachers whose salaries have been grossly underpaid or out-rightly denied as a result of deliberate omission on the payroll, the Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) in Kogi State, Mr. Thomas Ayodele described payments of salaries in percentages as “painful and ridiculous”; noting that teachers who were only paid 20 to 30 percents of two months of out of their salary arrears in January and February, 2018 “have been severely pauperised”.
Undoubtedly, the prevailing hardship which teachers in Kogi State are compelled to endure is unjustifiable and unfortunate. It is indeed a sad commentary for Nigeria that teachers or any category of workers for that matter could be subjected to such monumental neglect by government for whatever reason.
It amounts to betrayal of leadership to expect teachers to cope with the rigours of their routings barely on empty stomachs; in spite of the tranches of bailout extended to the state by federal government; specifically for the purposes of settlement of salary arrears.
It is even more so despicable to imagine that teachers; particularly those in public primary schools could be owed as much as twenty five months salaries. It is therefore without equivocation that we condemn the failure of governance and leadership in Kogi state.
It is indeed inconceivable to imagine that any government that condone such colossal failure could still feign legitimacy of authority over workers denied legitimate wages and generation of pupils whose future is on the throes of jeopardy.
It should not be trite to therefore wonder if there is indeed anything else worthy about governance in Kogi State when public primary schools have been rendered comatose for close two years without any indication that the leadership appreciates the imperative and urgency for resolving the crisis.
While the situation of all categories of workers in Kogi State is equally lamentable, the implication of toying with the welfare of teachers the way the government of Kogi State has demonstrated however portends far-reaching negative consequences for the future of the state and the larger Nigerian society.
The grave implication of the prevailing situation in Kogi State is that the future of thousands of children would have been unfortunately undermined by the subhuman treatment of teachers who are saddled with the tasks of imbuing education with solid foundation. Already, the negative impact of this avoidable crisis would be telling on parents while the overridding effect could hardly be quantified in the near future.
It is precisely on account of this reality therefore that we demand that Governor Yahaya Bello, should without further delay, ensure that salary arrears of teachers are settled as a matter of urgent public importance and to prevent the reoccurrence of such impasse in the state.
There could be no further justifiable excuses for exposing pupils in public primary schools in Kogi State to the risks of unsecured future. We remain convinced that leadership must be sensitive to the plight of the masses and should be held to account on responsibilities that guarantee the future of the generality of the people rather than being seeing to be pursuing the grandiose interests of the political elite.
It is therefore imperative to call on relevant authorities in the country to call the government of Kogi State to order. Stakeholders in the education and the labour sectors should also deploy sustained engagement with Kogi State government towards ensuring that salary arrears of teachers are paid without further delay in order to salvage education in the state.
More important however is that Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State must appreciate that the responsibility of guaranteeing the rights to education rests squarely on his shoulders. The future of pupils in Kogi State is at stake and the governor is duty bound to provide leadership.