20th November, 2021
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Rivers State University chapter, has threatened to embark on strike over refusal of Governor Nyesom Wike to obey a court order to pay over 220 teachers their five years’ salary arrears.
Governor Wike had stopped payment of salaries of teachers working in secondary and primary schools, referred to as demonstration schools attached to state-owned tertiary institutions five years ago.
The Governor had pointed out that since the Demonstration Schools charge students school fees, they should be able to pay the teachers from their coffers.
The measure led to stoppage of payment of salary to primary and secondary school teachers working in the Staff of Demonstration of Schools in three Tertiary Schools at Rivers State University , Ignatius Ajuru University of Education and Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic.
However, the stoppage of the salary has led to litigation and several protests by the affected teachers.
In one of the cases, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria on June 26, 2018, asked the Wike led State Government to pay the affected teachers.
The Court held that the teachers’ employments are valid, adding that the stoppage of the payment of their salaries by the state government was unlawful.
The Rivers State government appealed the judgement of the Industrial Court.
Though the Appeal was struck out in October 2020, the state government has refused to pay the teachers.
Announcing the decision to embark on strike over the refusal of Wike to pay the teachers, the Chairman of Rivers State University, SSANU, Comrade Ene Aaron Osorochi, said downing tools is the only option to press for the teachers’ demand.
The RSU SSANU boss said the union would embark on strike action come January 2022 in solidarity with the affected Teachers if the government still failed to pay the them their entitlements.
According to Osorochi “By January, the union will have no other option than to commence action from where we have stopped. We will speak the language of unionism.”
On his part, Chairman of the Rivers Civil Society Organisations, Enefaa Georgewill, expressed disappointment at the refusal of Wike’s government to give attention to the workers.
“We think that the government, the office of governor, the teachers and everyone of us are all creation of law. As such, we should learn to obey court order even if it doesn’t go our way.
“However if we reasonably feel that government is only using delay tactics to keep us on the dialogue table, we will be left with no other choice than to discuss with the teachers to go back to the streets.
“As at now, the Commissioner of Police, CP Eboka Friday, has asked us to come back on the 30th of November 2021 for him to see the governor physically and get a word from him. We will respect his office from now till that time. But for us in the civil society space, we doubt if our patience will exceed 30th of November 2021.”