Governors: our grouse about Buhari’s package for teachers

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Unless the conditions spelt out by governors are met, only teachers in Federal Government employment will enjoy the new salary package and improved condition of service granted them by President Muhammadu Buhari.

It was learnt that the governors were shocked that the Federal Government did not consult them before unilaterally unfolding the package during the 2020 World Teachers Day on October 5.

The governors insist, it was gathered, that since education is on the concurrent list, the Federal Government ought to have sought their input.

It was also learnt that the major challenge facing the governors is how to get funds to implement the new welfare package.

There are indications that the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) might meet with Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu, on how to address the challenges associated with the new package.

Some governors were said to be pushing for an amendment to the Universal Basic Education Act to free more cash for states to enable them to pay the new salary.

On October 5, the Federal Government announced a special salary scale for teachers.

Other perks unveiled include increase of their years of service from 35 to 40 years; adjustment of retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65; special pension scheme; rural posting allowance, science teachers allowance and peculiar allowance.

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Other incentives listed are building of low-cost houses for teachers in rural areas; sponsorship of teachers to at least one refresher training per annum; expansion of annual Presidential Teachers and Schools awards to cover more categories with outstanding winners to be considered for National Awards and National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) awards.

Most governors were caught unawares by the decision.

Some of them alleged that the Federal Government did not take into consideration that some states had already placed their teachers on Special Salary Scale.

They claimed that in some states, teachers have risen to the level of  permanent secretary.

It was gathered that the governors have been weighing options on how they can implement the policy with the drastic fall in revenue and debts.

A top source said although the governors agreed that teachers needed better package, there ought to be harmonisation of existing welfare structure at the state level with the Federal Government’s comprehensive proposals before the pronouncement was made.

leakblast reporters said: “Some governors joined issues with the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu on why he did not consult the states before advising the government to unfold the incentives.

“The minister assured the governors that President Muhammadu Buhari meant well. He said he will dialogue with the NGF on the implementation of the policy.”

It was also gathered that some governors want implementation take off date pushed to 2021 to enable them plan and accommodate the salary template in their budget.

A governor, who spoke in confidence, said: “The new welfare package may not take off immediately as proposed because it requires amendment to some laws in the country. There was no due diligence before the package was unfolded.

“For example, the minister said the Tertiary Education Fund (TETFUND) will now fund teaching practice in universities and Colleges of Education, special salary scale for teachers in basic and secondary schools including provisions for rural posting allowance, science teachers allowance and peculiar allowance.

“Going by TetFund Act, it caters for only tertiary education and it was a product of agitation by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Only the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) is designated for basic and secondary education. If TetFund has to play any role, it means its Act must be amended for the welfare package to take off.

“I think the appropriate thing is to amend UBEC Act to allocate more funds to states to be able to pay the Special Salary Scale and other allowances. The guidelines on how to access Universal Basic Education (UBEC) funds are too strict and they are slowing down the states. This is why we have billions of Naira un-accessed in UBEC.

“We all know that teachers’ welfare is a sensitive matter. The Federal Government has not made provision for the transition period before the appropriate laws are amended. Teachers will be looking forward to the immediate implementation of the package.

“With ASUU strike at hand, we cannot afford to shut down our primary and secondary schools.”

A Northeast governor said “there was no basis for the imposition of the salary structure like the National Minimum Wage because Education is on the concurrent list in the constitution.

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“I think the basic problem is funding. The Special Salary Scale adds to the burdens of the states. The Federal Government can make a blanket announcement on new salary structure because it has only 104 Unity Colleges.

“We hope that there will be a review of the Revenue Allocation Formula to allocate more funds to the states and the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) to implement this new salary scale.”

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike fired the first salvo after the announcement of the new package when he said: “It is good to give teachers special attention because of their strategic role in the society but such policy should be properly implemented.”

“The clamour for a new revenue formula by states has not received any attention by the Federal Government despite the obvious need for the review; they are rather imposing a new financial burden on the states without consulting them.”

While unveiling the welfare package for teachers, President Muhammadu Buhari explained the rationale behind it.

He said:  ”Government notes the emergency situation in our educational system with particular reference to the dearth of qualified and dedicated teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of our educational system.’’

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