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How Enugu State Govt Sacked 5 Primary School Teachers Who Protested Non Implementation Of 30K Minimum Wage

The Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB) has sacked five primary school teachers for complaining to Governor Peter Mbah about the non-payment of the N30,000 minimum wage to primary school teachers in the state.

SaharaReporters had reported how Governor Mbah recently sacked about 27 senior staff members of the Water Corporation for their inability to meet the N50 million monthly target from the sale of water.

The sack letters issued to the water corporation workers were later withdrawn. Unfortunately, one of the affected workers – a director who was on his annual leave before he was called and handed a termination letter by the Governor’s Special Personal Assistant on Water Corporation and Waste Management – died.

The immediate past administration commenced N30,000 minimum wage payment to state civil servants in February 2020 but refused to pay the primary school teachers.

The teachers in November 2022 embarked on an indefinite strike action over non-payment of N30,000 minimum wage.

Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe of the National Industrial Court had ruled in an originating summons numbered NICN/EN/01/2022, against the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) in the state, led by Theophilus Odo, on behalf of the NUT.

The suit had asked the court to bar the teachers from embarking on any strike because they were essential workers.

But Justice Arowosegbe did not only dismiss the suit, he ordered the Government of Enugu State to go back and negotiate with the teachers, describing it as discriminatory for the Claimant to pay some workers in the state the minimum wage, from February 2020, and refused to pay the teachers the same.

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The Judge noted that the state could not stop the teachers from ventilating their grievances through industrial action.

The court, in its judgement delivered on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, held that the “primary school teachers in Enugu State do not fall within the categories of workers who provide essential services, hence they can embark on strike and other lawful means to press home their demand”.

Despite the judgement, the primary teachers in the state were not paid the minimum wage.

In February, the five primary school teachers summoned the courage and sought an audience with Governor Mbah where they reportedly complained about the non-payment of the minimum wage to primary school teachers among other issues.

Following the discussion, Governor Mbah recently approved the payment of the minimum wage to the teachers which was reflected in their February 2024 salary that elicited jubilation.

However, while the rest of the teachers affected by the approval are relishing in joy, the five teachers who braved the odds to fight for the implementation, have been sacked by the State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB).

The ENSUBEB in the letter dismissing the five teachers had considered their action “a serious offence against the provisions of the Public Service Rules,” stressing that their action was also “an embarrassment to the Board and unbecoming of a public officer”.

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One of the letters sighted by SaharaReporters on Friday, signed by Mrs Ugwu Evelyn on behalf of the Executive Chairman of the commission, Gabriel Ajah, a relation of the governor and former Secretary to State Government (SSG) under the immediate past administration, accused the affected teachers of absence from duty without written permission.

Other accusations levelled against the teachers are “breach of communication channels in the public service; insubordination and contravention of provisions of public service rules by engaging in serious acts of misconduct.”

The letter stated that the decision to sack the teachers was part of the resolutions of the ENSUBEB full board meeting held on March 5. It added that their dismissals took effect on March 1, 2024, and urged them to hand over all government property in their possession to their head teachers “within 24 hours of receipt of this letter”.

Meanwhile, the sacking of the five school teachers has elicited condemnations from residents of the state as this was the fourth time within the nine months of Governor Peter Mbah in office that workers would be sacked for complaining about injustice in his administration.

A civil rights advocate, James Ogbonna, while speaking to some journalists in an interview, condemned the action of the board, noting that there was no justification to warrant the punishment.

He said, “I don’t see any justification in what the state government has done. How can you just wake up and sack somebody because he/she went to the governor who of course is the father of the state to complain about issues concerning him/her? The governor opened his door to them, listened to them, and felt there was something he could do and he did.

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“You never queried the teachers, you never set up a panel to try them, they did not steal but just because they complained. We are not in a military era where people should not voice their grievances. The state government should rescind this decision and stop putting the lives of innocent people in danger.”

Meanwhile, the state chapter of the NUT, which is supposed to be fighting for the affected teachers, has distanced itself from any planned protest against the state government on the development.

The State Chairman of the NUT, Theophilus Nweke, told reporters that it was unconscionable for anyone to think of embarking on any form of protest against the state governor, whom he said had demonstrated readiness to confront their challenges.

He expressed surprise that “none of the dismissed teachers sought his opinion nor that of the leadership of ENSUBEB before carrying out any of their actions”.

“The five-point requests we made to the governor are receiving adequate attention; four have already been implemented and the fifth one is underway. Therefore, only they can explain the reasons for their action,” he stated.

 

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