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HURIWA Demands Justice For Unpaid Unity School Teachers

 

THE Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called for immediate action regarding the plight of 1,800 teachers employed in Federal Government Unity Schools who have reportedly been unpaid for 36 months.

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HURIWA expressed profound dismay and indignation that despite the Federal Ministry of Education’s significant personnel budget expenditure, these teachers remain without their rightful earnings, a situation that the prominent civil rights advocacy group described as a gross injustice.

Giving background to the issue, HURIWA recounted that an investigation by The Guardian revealed that the Federal Ministry of Education has spent N4.3 trillion on personnel budgets over the past six years. “However, over 1,800 teachers, recruited between 2018 and 2020, have not been paid their salaries. These alleged unpaid arrears, along with other allowances, amount to over N3.4 billion. The affected teachers, employed as education officers and posted to schools across Nigeria, have also not received their first 28 days allowance, which is typically provided to cover initial expenses for new employees in public service.

“Despite informed repeated protests and numerous letters to the Ministry of Education’s headquarters in Abuja, the teachers’ demands for their rightful payment have reportedly not been met. The Ministry officials, including the permanent secretary and the Minister of Education, Dr. Yusuf Sununu, have allegedly made multiple promises to address the issue. However, these supposed promises have yet to materialize into concrete action. Reasons cited for the non-payment include logistical challenges at the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) desk and the Ministry’s alleged failure to transmit the teachers’ files to the Budget Office of the Federation for vetting and onward transfer to the Accountant General’s office for approval,” HURIWA narrated.

Hence, HURIWA, in a press statement, called for the arrest of Mallam Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education under former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, during whose tenure this issue began. The association questioned why the teachers were employed without plans for timely payment and demanded accountability for this gross negligence. HURIWA stressed that the entire problem started during Buhari’s time, and Adamu Adamu, as the then Minister of Education, should be held accountable.

The association also urged the current administration of President Bola Tinubu to issue a stern caution to the present Ministers of Education. HURIWA criticized their insensitivity, questioning why they have not prioritized resolving this issue despite being aware of it upon taking office. The association believes that if the current ministers had discovered the unpaid teachers upon assuming office, they should have made it a priority to resolve the matter swiftly.

“Unity Schools, also known as Federal Government Colleges, play a crucial role in promoting national cohesion by bringing together students from diverse backgrounds across Nigeria. These schools are vital for fostering unity and integration among young Nigerians. For instance, a child from Sokoto might be posted to a Federal Government College in Okigwe, Imo State. The non-payment of teachers in these institutions undermines their effectiveness and threatens the nation’s educational framework,” HURIWA lamented.

HURIWA also believes the non-payment of these teachers constitutes a national emergency. The association highlighted other forms of mistreatment of teachers in Nigeria, emphasizing that despite the extension of the retirement age from 60 to 65 years under Buhari’s administration, the lack of adequate compensation and timely payment of wages renders this policy ineffective.

The association also raised concerns about the increasing exodus of mathematics teachers and other skilled educators from Nigeria to countries like Canada, Britain, and Australia. “The British government, for example, is actively recruiting mathematics teachers, and many Nigerians are leaving due to better pay and working conditions abroad. This brain drain further exacerbates the challenges facing Nigeria’s education system.”

HURIWA demanded immediate action from the current administration. They called for the immediate payment of the 36-month salary arrears owed to the 1,800 Unity School teachers and accountability for those responsible for the non-payment, including the arrest and investigation of Mallam Adamu Adamu. They also urged the government to issue a formal caution to the current Ministers of Education, demanding swift action to resolve this issue and implement measures to prevent future delays in salary payments.

In conclusion, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria emphasized that teachers are the backbone of the education system, and their welfare should be a top priority. They called for a comprehensive review of the budgeting and disbursement processes within the Ministry of Education to ensure such issues do not recur, stressing that the future of Nigeria’s education system and the well-being of its educators depend on it.

Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko
National Coordinator,
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)
July 3, 2024

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