Since the 9th of March 2017, teachers in all public schools in the Delta State of Nigeria have been on strike. The strike action has paralysed academic activities in the state and sends pupils and students on compulsory vacation for about two weeks now.
The reasons for the strike called by the delta state chapter of the Nigerian union of teachers are the nonpayment of salaries since November 2016 which is about five month’s now. The teachers are also downing tools because the delta state government refuses to honour teachers transferred from the teaching service to ministries and the non-payment of pensioners’ benefits among several other vexed issues.
The embarrassing strike action has forced the delta state government to run from pillar to post to ensure that it is called off. The government has resorted to all forms of coercion to force the teachers back to work without success.
The teachers union (nut) in a communiqué read by its secretary Mr. Joel Yalekhue permitted secondary school teachers who are supervising the West African Senior School Certificate examination to continue to invigilate the exams despite the strike action.
The union secretary in the said communiqué lampooned the state government for threatening to stop salaries of teachers based on the principle of no work no pay.
According to him “it is unfortunate that instead of the state government proffering a holistic solution to the issues at stake, the state government has decided to apply divide and rule tactics which are inimical to the educational development of the state”
Meanwhile, the teachers union has advised its members not to be intimidated by the antics and tactics of the delta state government towards forcing them back to classrooms without meeting their demands. The teachers union said not even the threat of dismissal will cow them and insisted that the state government should rather do the needful by meeting their demands rather than beating around the bush.
The teachers union wondered whatever happens to all the monthly allocations inclusive of derivation revenue gotten by the state from the federation account. They expressed disappointment that delta state being an oil producing state should have enough financial resources to fund the education sector.
Meanwhile, the state chapter of the committee for the defense of human rights, CDHR has threatened to mobilise Six Million Deltans and nonDeltans against the governor Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa – led government if it fails to meet the demands of the striking primary and secondary school teachers in seven days.
It is a sad commentary in governance that one of the oil rich states in Nigeria, Delta State should owe teachers’ salaries and entitlements for up to 5 months. The government must exhibit prudent management of scarce and lean resources by prioritizing their expenditure so as to allocate resources to important and essential services. Two of the most important sectors in any state that requires attention are education and health. These two sectors must be sustained and improved upon no matter the ugly financial position of the government.