Plateau basic education in disarray as SUBEB owes 5 months salaries
Employees of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) in Plateau State have not officially declared a strike while the board hasn’t restricted any official from work, but the board’s building along Bauchi Road in Jos is mostly deserted and has seen no activity in recent days because officials have withdrawn their services.
The board’s 319 employees who were initially prudent and attended their daily schedules in good time have complained of non-payment of salaries and allowances thereby making them suffer low morale.
The workers under the auspices of Non Academic Staff Union of Plateau State Universal Basic Education Board (NASU) said they have no plan for a strike over their plight but have decided to stay away from work and save their transport monies because they have not been given salaries for long.
“And why should we go to work when we have not been paid for a long time,” a junior worker said while speaking to Daily Trust on phone about the absence of staff on duty.
“Tell government to pay us, and then we will resume work. We are not slaves,” he added.
Daily Trust visited the board’s headquarters twice in two days and in each of the visits, few auxiliary workers were found while neither the senior staffers nor the chairman were around.
Inquiries showed that few middle class and senior officials go to their offices but hardly stay for more than three hours before they leave.
“When there are contracts to process, you find them contacting their secretaries and other staff on how to carry out certain directives to ensure that the contracts are done. They don’t have the courage to stop workers from not reporting for work. They themselves come in briefly, and leave,” another worker, who would not want to be mentioned, said.
Chairman of NASU, Comrade Amos Galadima, confirmed that his members have not been paid for five months. He said the workers were last paid in February 2016. “So, workers find it difficult to come to work and to also take care of their families,” Galadima said, adding that due to the lack of payments, most workers have withdrawn their services. He appealed to the government to clear the backlog of salary arrears so that workers can perform their duties diligently.
When contacted, Head of Public Relations Office, Mr. Richard Jonah, who spoke on behalf of the Chairman of the board, Professor Mathew Sule, said that the board was aware of the workers’ situation. He said efforts were being made to resolve the pending issue of the unpaid salaries, although he did not say what caused the delay. He said the situation was not unconnected to financial problems being faced by many states where civil servants have not been paid salaries for months. He also said that some officials have not been reporting for work and that the management has a flexible policy to allow workers stay away from work during the difficult periods.
The board was supposed to ensure smooth running of primary schools but with the inability of its workers to go to work for over five months, it means the institution’s supervisory role in basic education was unpredictable.
A primary school teacher told Daily Trust that most schools too, were facing similar problems because teachers have not been given salaries for three months.
“The board has not been functioning because its workers won’t go to work on empty stomach. So the board’s management is incapable of meeting its supervisory role on basic education in the state. To make matters worse, teachers in the state have not been paid for three months now,” the teacher said.
Comrade Galadima said that part of the board’s work was to supervise the teachers and academic activities in primary schools, construct school buildings and the general provision of facilities “but all these activities have come to a halt as a result of non-payment of salaries,” he said.
He said the situation was further worsened with the delay in payment of salaries and other allowances of teachers, whose arrears were running into the fourth month.
The leadership of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) in the state has said teachers have not been paid for three months.
“We haven’t received salary for three months now,” Comrade Gunshin Yarlings, the state NUT chairman said.
A source said one of the liabilities Governor Simon Bako Lalong inherited was teachers’ backlog of salaries arrears, which extended to seven months.
Another source said the trouble started when the previous administration of Governor Johan Jang approved the removal of the names of officials from the state payroll asking the board to pay salary from the schools’ grants. “About N2.8 billion meant for schools was transferred to state account on the orders of the former governor while the state stopped paying our salaries.”
He said the SUBEB generated its monies for the upkeep of school from local government grants and will not be enough to pay its workers. “We have not received salaries between February and June this year,” he said.
The source said the office of the Head of Service has requested the return of SUBEB’s officials to government’s payroll and Governor Simon Lalong had given approval. “We are waiting for implementation,” he added.
Daily Trust reports that the state government had cleared more than half of the teachers’ salary arrears it inherited. Government had also indicated intention to recover funds allegedly stolen from the state by previous leaders and so far about N2.7 billion UBE funds was recovered as announced by the governor recently. The government is yet to disclose the identity of the persons from whom the fund was recovered from but teachers have called on the governor to use the recovered money for the payment of their outstanding four months salaries.