By Joseph Kingston, Calabar
Governor Ben Ayade’s strive to build his political empire around civil servants through timely payment of salaries and appointment of thousands of young people into government as aides, seem not to be working as teachers and lawyers in the state government employ are demanding that their rights and privileges be met fully if the governor is to have a peaceful atmosphere to govern.
Myriads of protests are continually rocking Calabar, the state capital over unpaid arrears, with the latest being the one embarked upon by lawyers on Monday. This is coming on the heels of a call by a cross section of gospel ministers, under the umbrella of Christian Leaders Forum, to the governor to resign over socio-economic and security challenges which, they believe, the government has no solution to.
Last Friday, teachers in public schools embarked on indefinite strike because, according to them, the state government had reneged on all agreements entered for welfare of members. Two days later, workers in the state Ministry of Justice, under the umbrella of Law Officers Association of Nigeria (LOAN) stormed the streets of Calabar over pending arrears.
Comrade Eyo-Nsa Itam, the NUT State Chairman, who spoke through a press statement, said the union came to the decision “after an exhaustive deliberation on the insensitivity of the State government towards the welfare of teachers in the state.”
According to the statement, which was countersigned by Dr. R. Anyadike, the state secretary, and Comrade Etim Etim, the state publicity secretary, the union x-rayed several disappointments from the present government, including alleged humiliation of teachers, even when they had showed maturity, respect and cooperation with the government.
Orient Daily reporter, who monitored situations in Calabar metropolis on Monday and Tuesday, observed that public schools remained shut as teachers complied with the union’s directives. Pupils were sent home by angry looking teachers who stood at the gates of each school.
The union said their grouse was that “government’s inaction over her promises of November 3, 2016, an agreement it freely entered with the NUT on February 15, 2018 clearly shows that the Cross River State government has abandoned the teachers of the state to their fate.”
The teachers are demanding payment of salary arrears owed some primary school teachers erroneously dropped from the payroll since 2016; release of promotion letters to primary school teachers as is done to other workers in the state; complete implementation of promotion to all secondary school teachers; and the implementation of annual salary incremental steps to primary school teachers from January, 2016.
Similarly, the lawyers said they were angry with the governor over what they saw as deliberate delay in harmonising their salaries with those of magistrates in Cross River state.
Led by the state chairman of the chapter, Eneji Amajama, the lawyers shut down activities at the state Ministry of Justice before marching to the governor’s office where the acting governor, Prof. Ivara Esu addressed them.
“The Governor came to the ministry of justice sometime in May to commission our Library and agreed that the harmonization should be implemented and also made provision that more law officers should be recruited. Since then, more law officers have been recruited but the implementation of the harmonisation policy has not been done.
“When we wrote to the attorney general, Joe Abang, to remind him, he treated us with total disdain. He never allowed the governor to see our document and we were patient. We wanted to have a courtesy visit to the governor, but Abang threw away the letter.
“When we gave them 21-day notice to embark on this protest, they treated it with disdain. And we gave them another seven-day notice, they never did anything… here is a policy on ground, it was in the budget of 2917 and is in the budget of 2018 and up till this moment nobody is implementing it.”
Interestingly, when the lawyers made their determination to embark on the strike known last week, government had threatened to enforce a ‘no work, no pay’, policy on any one who embarks on the strike.
But the threat seems to have become history as the acting Governor Ivara Esu told the protesters that government was willing to meet their demand. Addressing the protesting lawyers, Esu said the issue raised would be resolved because the roles of law officers in the administration of justice in the state cannot be ignored.