Worried by action of teachers taking to the streets of Yenagoa to press home their demand for salary arrears, the Bayelsa State government has called teachers protesting 10 months’ salary arrears and seeking the takeover of primary school funding to seek dialogue rather than open protests that would not redress their plight.
The state commissioner for local government administration, Dr Agatha Goma, gave the advice while reacting to the public protest by the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in Yenagoa. The Bayelsa chapter of the NUT, had taken to the streets of Yenagoa to demand the takeover of primary school funding from the local governments.
Goma, who admitted that the teachers acted within their rights to demand for better condition of service, said such important issue is better resolved through creative engagement with stakeholders, rather than on the streets.
She said that the state government empathised with the plight of the teachers and would continue to work with the councils to ensure that a robust revenue generation mechanism was set up, with a view to increasing funds available to the local governments.
According to the commissioner, the state government would continue to pursue policies that would guarantee regular payment of salaries to all categories of workers in the state.
“Yes, it is the statutory responsibility of the council to pay the primary school teachers. I am sure the councils are also conscious of this responsibility. There is however, too much gap between the councils’ revenue and their financial obligations.
“Despite various interventions from the state government, it is difficult for the councils to meet up their obligation. This situation is not peculiar to Bayelsa. One assurance I will give, however, is that the government is considering all viable options to solving this problem,” she said.
The Bayelsa NUT had, during the protest, given a 30-day ultimatum to the government and local government areas to clear the salary arrears owed to primary and secondary schools in the state or face withdrawal of service.