The six area councils in the Federal Capital Territory, penultimate week, at the 161st Joint Accounts Allocation Committee, JAAC, meeting shared the sum of N1,615,340,273.24 while the sum of N2,053,166,386.12billion was made available to other stakeholders.
Of this humungous sums, the Abuja Municipal Area Council AMAC, received N328,034,790.92 million, Gwagwalada got N284, 273, 669.49 million and Kuje received N259,674,786.45million.
Other area councils include, Bwari Area Council received N250,649,903.10 million, Abaji got N250,646,804.73 million and Kwali went home with N242,060,318.55 million.
As is always the ritual, primary school teachers received a total of N1,682,152,924.31 billion, representing 15 percent of the allocation, yet, it is inconceivable that teachers of Local Education Authority, LEA, have not been at work for almost two months running over issues of earned allowances, promotion and other sundry matters.
As the teachers seek value for earned wages, pupils, in their thousands across the six area councils have been at home, while their mates across the country and in particular, neighbouring states with less than half of what their local governments get, are in school.
Speaking at the JAAC jamboree, the Minister of State, FCT, Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, made excuses over the strike, while engaging in political speak. According to the minister, the issue of non-payment of promotion arrears since 2013, predates the present administration.
But gave the assurances that a workable template has been put in place to offset the debts for over a period of time, adding that a 7-member committee will be set up to look at the operation of the template.
“Our primary school teachers are at home over the nonpayment of their arrears that predates this administration. However, the quality of a good leader is to take responsibility, and we must work out ways to resolve this protracted issue. Workable template to offset the debts over a period of time has been put in place, and a seven-man committee to look into the operation of the template will be set up,” Aliyu said at the meeting.
It will be recalled that primary school teachers in Abuja embarked on a five-day warning strike on November 18, 2021 accusing the area council chairmen of ignoring their demands. The strike was, however, suspended on December 1, 2021.
As has become a near-norm, the executive chairman of the Federal Capital Territory Universal Basic Education Board, Dr. Alhassan Sule, at a media briefing absolved the FCT administration off any blame, as he insisted that strike is mostly due to the friction between the LEA secretaries and their chairmen.
Sule pointed that area council chairmen should rather be blamed for the primary schools’ teachers strike, as the administration was not owing FCT teachers’ salaries to make them embark on an indefinite strike.
“I could remember that in December, NUT and the local governments had an agreement to suspend their strike based on the agreement that they are going to have a roundtable to discuss the template on how they are going to implement the arrears.
“I believe that what the area council did by not inviting the NUT to a roundtable is one of the reasons that they decided to go back to strike.
“They are not talking of the arrears now, but that they should come together and get a workable template on how they are going to decrease all the outstanding arrears dating back to 2015, 2016 till date in the local government areas,” he said.
Clarifying the issue, the FCT NUT chairman, Comrade Stephen Knabayi, said the union decided to resume the strike action due to lack of commitment by the six area councils over agreement with the union to come up with a workable template for payment of LEA primary school teachers’ arrears in the FCT.
“We have been part of the meeting and members of JAAC where allocations come from the federation account and shared accordingly, where the issue of teachers’ salaries is made a frontline charge. Also, there is never a time when salaries are held by the six area councils.
“But presently, we have directed that schools should be shut down in the six area councils with effect from today Wednesday. That has to do with the outstanding arrears and the none payment of the arrears of the new national minimum wage, and some months of annual increment in some LEAs,” he said.
It is disheartening that the FCT administration cannot muster its political weight to get the area councils’ chairmen to do what is right and lawful. If the FCTA is able to corner revenue collection from area councils, then there are avenues available to them to explore over the issue of welfare and labour relations.
To allow this shameful situation to persist makes it as culpable as the area council chairmen.
Rather than concentrate on how to resolve this impasse and secure the future of pupils, who by the way are mostly indigenous peoples, the chairmen are engaged in last minute awards of contracts, no doubt bloated, to give a semblance of governance.
This newspaper calls on the various anti-graft agencies to forensically beam their compass on these area councils’ chairmen and officials to ensure that monies meant for teachers’ payments have not been misappropriated and contracts inflated.
It is about time the issue of the continued strike is addressed and pupils return to the classrooms.