by Segun Odeleye
For six months, primary school teachers in Benue state have been on strike demanding for a rise in their pay to meet up with the national standard.
On Tuesday, the governor, Gabriel Suswam, disclosed during a radio programme that he had cut his salary and that of other political office holders in the state by 25 per cent to enable him address the problem of teachers and other financial issues bothering the state.
wage bill for the teachers stands already at over N1.1 billion besides that of local government staff, which according to him is N1.9 billion.
“The minimum wage the teachers are asking me to pay is N1.8 billion and if you put that together with the salaries of local government staff, you have over N4 billion, so where will I get N4 billion every month to pay the salaries of local government staff and teachers? It’s not that I am collecting huge amount of money and telling people stories. The allocation for each state is always published in the national dailies for everybody to see.
“So it is either that people decide that we should close down government when I woke up and when the money comes, I pay salaries and go back to the governor’s lodge and sleep till next month. So there is no way that I can pay that money, the money is simply not available.
“I told the teachers if they go on strike, I am not paying them until they come back, we are not expending their money, which is N1.1 billion and since the past five months that they have been on strike we are keeping it, but then I will not pay any person without working, the International Labour Law says if you don’t go to work, you won’t receive your pay and so that is what is happening,” he said.