Wednesday, March 10, 2021 6:12 pm
By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Unlike other parts of the country, there were two different protests over two different issues in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Wednesday.
For one, the Rivers State chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, led by Comrade Beatrice Ituboh, joined their counterparts across the country in a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt over the ongoing plan by the National Assembly to move the fixing of minimum wage from the exclusive to concurrent list..
This will give power to the state governments to fix the respective amount they can pay.
But in a separate protest, teachers of Primary and Secondary Schools attached to tertiary institutions owned by the Rivers State Government, popularly known as ‘Demonstration Schools’ also took to the streets of the oil city in protest against non-payment of their salaries for the past five years.
Speaking during the NLC protest on the minimum wage, Mrs Ituboh clarified the workers in Rivers do not have any problem with the State about the payment of minimum wage, but that the peaceful protest was in obedience to the directives of the national leadership of NLC.
Ituboh led the protesters to the Rivers State House of Assembly where they were addressed by the lawmakers.
On the other hand, the aggrieved teachers carried banners with photos of 10 of their colleagues who died within the five years of unpaid salaries.
Some other inscriptions carried by aggrieved teachers were; “Five years, No Salaries”, “Pay our Parents”, “Wike we are more than Flyovers”,etc.
The teachers protested at Rivers House of Assembly complex protesting and were also at Government’s House.
But it was not clear if they were able to secure audience with Governor Wike.
At the House of Assembly, the protesting teachers called on the lawmakers to prevail on Governor Wike and the state government to obey court orders and pay their salaries as their families have been subjected to hardship and scavenging to survive. T
They said many of their members are dying and many are hungry and sick and in need of urgent medical attention.
The aggrieved teachers lamented the untold hardships they have been going through as a result of lack of nonpayment of their salaries for the past five years.
Recall that over 250 teachers who were employed at the Primary and Secondary Demonstration Schools owned by three Rivers State Tertiary institutions have been crying out to the state government to pay their five years unpaid salaries.
The teachers had dragged the state government to work and they won as the National Industrial Court asked Rivers to pay their salaries in a judgment delivered on June 2018.
The state government appealed the judgment, but the appeal was struck out for lack of merit.
But despite the judgment, Governor had allegedly refused to approved payment of salary to the teachers.
The woes of the affected teachers started of February 18, 2016, when Governor Wike ordered that their salaries should be expunged from the payroll.
Wike had argued then that since parents are paying fees for their children, the management of such schools should be responsible for the salaries and allowances of the teachers and should not depend on the state government .
The affected teachers had earlier threatened that if the Government fails to pay them within 14 days they will stage peaceful Protest and occupy Government’s House.
The directive affected teachers of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education Demonstration secondary school, Ndele; Rivers State University International Secondary and Staff School, Port Harcourt, and Ken-Saro Wiwa Polytechnic Comprehensive Secondary School, Bori.
Their names were immediately expunged from the State Government Salary vouchers on orders of Governor Wike.
A total of 255 affected teachers in a press briefing held jointly with the Rivers Civil Society Organization in Port Harcourt called on the state government to urgently pay up their salaries and obey court orders as an administration that preaches obedience of the rule of law.
They noted that the teachers had won all litigation concerning the matter at the National Industrial Court and Appeal Court.
They lamented the challenges they have faced for the past five years because of nonpayment of their salaries.
The Chairman of the Rivers Civil Society Organizations, Enefaa Georgewill, had threatened that the organization would join the affected teachers to protest if their salaries are not paid..