by Solomon Osadolo
For almost two months, primary school students in Benue public schools have been at home as a result of the strike action embarked upon by the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) which is protesting over the governor’s failure to keep to the agreement he signed with them as regards the payment of minimum wage.
The governor who is a vocal critic of industrial actions by unions and has repeatedly criticised ASUU over their four-month strike action, used the occasion of his 49th birthday anniversary lecture in Makurdi, the Benue capital, to talk about the agitation by teachers in Benue.
Suswam claimed that the state government borrows money to pay the N3 billion monthly wage bill of primary school teachers in the state. He lamented that despite his government’s efforts to ensure that teachers don’t earn less than N18,000, “we are still faced with agitation by the teachers.”
“It is just sad that people fail to understand that the minimum wage as prescribed by the Federal Government is only a threshold upon which we must build on. But all we have done is to ensure that no government employee earns less than the minimum wage and in doing that, we resort to borrowing to pay staff. As at today, we expend a little over N3billion monthly on local government staff and teachers’ salaries, with little left for meaningful development project,” he said.
The governor appealed to the striking teachers to return to the classrooms in the interest of our children; “because we cannot afford to have our children out of the universities and primary schools at the same time.”