From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
In Igbo phraseology, it is said that when a native doctor is given more than he bargained for, he goes behind his house to get roots to prepare. He does not waste his client’s time by going to the forest to get herbs.
In the same vein, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Abia branch, did not need a moment longer to call off its lingering industrial action when the state government dangled before it mouth-watering promises.
Teachers in the state embarked on strike since January 2021 and vowed not to call it off until the state government cleared the arrears of salary that they said ranged from three to 11 months. Even when they were paid November and December salary last year, which the government said cost it N1.1 billion, they still remained adamant.
To make matters worse, the zonal and national leaderships of NUT backed the Abia State branch and insisted that the teachers would return to classes only if government cleared the arrears, among other demands. Government’s appeal for them to return to classes fell on deaf ears as they refused to resume work when schools reopened on Monday.
However, in tandem with the Igbo native doctor’s analogy, the state branch of the NUT, on Tuesday, March 2, called off the strike with immediate effect. This followed a meeting between Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and the national leadership of the NUT, where the state government agreed, among other things, to liquidate the arrears of salary owed teachers before the end of 2021.
In a statement that threw more light on the meeting, signed by the NUT chairman, Mr. Kizito Kalu, and secretary, Mrs. Nnenna Okonkwo, the union said the decision to call off the strike was based on intervention and deliberation by the NUT national leadership on the plight of Abia teachers with Ikpeazu on March 1.
After the meeting, the parties came out with a resolution, which stated in part, “That the government will make teachers’ salaries top priority. The state government agreed to liquidate the outstanding arrears of salaries owed to both senior and junior secondary school teachers in the state before end of 2021.
“That government has agreed to pay the basic school teachers the N10,000 added on salaries of all workers in the state. The issues on policy matters will also be addressed when the whole documentations are made available, for example, promotion implementation, leave grants and others. Government has equally directed that the check-off dues and teachers’ retirement contributions should be paid along with every salary payment.
“Based on the understanding reached with the NUT leadership, we inform you that the ongoing strike is suspended. Teachers are by this notice directed to go back to classes. The national leadership commends your doggedness and sustainability throughout the period of the strike. The NUT, Abia State wing, appreciates your solidarity, unity, support and cooperation during the period”.
With the resolution of the lingering issues and the suspension of the strike, students and pupils in public schools in the state would now join their counterparts in private schools to attend classes. Teachers, on the other hand, would be happier for it as they are now sure of getting paid at the end of every month while the arrears owed them would be liquidated before the end of the year.