By Lucky Isibor
As the agitation for autonomy of Local Government in Nigeria gains more traction, the Edo State wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, have called on the Federal Government, the National Assembly and the thirty-six state governments to hand over the funding and administration of primary education to state governments in the event if autonomy is granted the third tier of government.
The union made it’s position known in Benin City Tuesday, 4 July, 2017 at an advocacy rally it held to sensitize government officials and the general public on the dangers inherent in handing over funding and administration of primary education to Local Government Councils which will culminate in the scraping of the State and Local Government joint account.
Led by the national president of the union, Mr Michael Olukoya, who was represented by the national publicity Secretary of the union, Comrade Amos Izebhijie, Edo state Chairman, Comrade Loggle Iyalomhe and Edo state acting Secretary, Comrade Mike Moni Modesty Itua, the union recounted the ordeal of teachers nationwide when Local Government Councils were in charge of funding and administration of primary school education in Nigeria between 1990 and 1994.
The union pointed out that the inglorious era was characterised by lack of payment of salaries and pension resulting in frequent strike actions and drop out of school by innocent children.
“The renewed agitation for local government autonomy has made it imperative for the Nigeria Union of Teachers to sensitize stakeholders and the general public on the danger inherent in handing over the affairs of primary education to respective local councils should autonomy of local government be granted.
“The awful experience of teachers between 1990 and 1994 when primary education was left in the hands of local government councils will continue to haunt the education industry for a long time to come. “Payment of primary school teachers’ salaries and allowances as well as retirement benefit to retirees was not on the priority list of politicians in the local government councils.
“Teachers were owed salary arrears for as much as one year. The incessant strike actions experienced in those years led to compulsory massive drop from schools by our innocent and and un assuming youths which negated the principle of free and compulsory basic education for all children of school age”.
While avowing that the union is not opposed to autonomy for local government councils, the NUT pointed out that it is only demanding that the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended and set out in paragraph 2(a) to the forth schedule which made provision for the function of local government councils to include the participation in the government of a state in respect of the provision and maintenance of primary education as affirmed by the Supreme Court in the suit, Attorney- General of the Federation V. Attorney- General of Abia state and 35 others in 2002, be upheld and made sacrosanct.
The union urged the Federal Government to increase the revenue allocation from the Federation account to states to enable them shoulder the responsibility to make salaries and emoluments of primary school teachers the first line charge on the Federation Account and given to NPEC for payment to teachers as was done between 1994 to 2002.
“The primary concern of the Nigeria Union of Teachers is not the issue of local government autonomy. The funding and management of primary education is a function of the respective state governments. This is in accordance with paragraph 2(a) of the forth schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended which provides that the function of local government council shall include participation of such council in the government of a state in respect of the provision and maintenance of primary education.
“We wish to propose that allocation from the Federation Account be reviewed upwards in favour of states to enable them discharge this Constitutional responsibility effectively.
“A second option towards protecting salaries of primary school teachers in Nigeria is the first line charge. Primary education got it’s best during the operation of first line charge policy by the Federal Government from where emoluments of primary school teachers were deducted from the Federation Account and given to NPEC for payment of teachers’ salaries beginning from 1994 to 2002”, the union said.