Defiant striking members of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT on Monday crippled activities in all public primary schools in Edo State as schools reopen after COVID-19-induced shutdown. The teachers refused to succumb to the state government’s no work, no pay policy in a desperate move to thwart the ongoing strike action.
Meanwhile, the National Industrial Court in the Benin Judicial Division presided over by Justice Abiola Adewemimo has restrained the NUT from proceeding on any strike action in the State Primary schools. Justice Adewemimo gave the order on Monday, February 1, after listening to submissions by the state government and the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) in a case with Suit No. NICN/BEN/04/2021 brought before it by the office of the state Solicitor-General, Oluwole Iyamu, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN.
The defendants in the suit are Chairman, NUT, Edo State, Pius O. Okhuleliegbe, Assistant Secretary-General, NUT, Edo State, Moni Mike Modesty Itua, for themselves and on behalf of the members of the Edo State wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT)
Making good their threat to continue with the strike which started January 18 in protest against the non-fulfillment of their 10-point demands from the state government, the teachers shunned their duty posts leaving the schools across the state deserted.
Reacting to the government’s threat of salary forfeiture last Friday by secretary to the state government, SSG, Osarodion Ogie, the defiant NUT leadership on Sunday insisted that the strike action remained in force and advised parents to keep their children and wards at home pending when the issues in dispute would be resolved, a directive the members complied with.
A visit to some public primary schools in Benin City showed that they were devoid of the normal academic activities as both the teachers and head teachers stayed away. It was however observed that some staff of the local government education authority and State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) was deployed by the government to teach in a some schools where few pupils were present.
At Agbado Primary School, along Akpakpava Road in the state capital, no pupil showed up while only three persons who claimed to be from SUBEB and local government education authority, were seen hanging around in case any pupils turned up for resumption.
At Emokpae Model Primary School, along Mission Road, only four women were sited while a few pupils were seen in only two classrooms. One of the teachers, who did not want to be identified, said they obeyed the state government’s order in the interest of the children. She argued that education was not about NUT or state government, but for the sake of the children.
At Igbesamwan Model Primary School, off Akpakpava Road, four suspected staff of SUBEB and LGEA was similarly sited and they claimed they had attended to few pupils who showed up in the school. At Asoro Primary School, Sokponba Road, only one teacher was in the school attending to only few pupils who converged in a one classroom.
Excited with the success of the ongoing strike, the NUT described it as “total” across the state. Speaking with newsmen, the Assistant Secretary General of the union, Moni Mike Modesty Itua commended teachers for the total compliance, and urged them to remain resolute in the fight for freedom until otherwise directed by the union. He however, expressed hope that with the total compliance, the state government may call the leadership for a negotiation.
But in what appeared to be a pipe dream, the state government chose to approach the National Industrial Court which restraining order may break the strike. Justice Adewemimo who gave the order, restrained the NUT chairman and assistant secretary general respectively, either acting for themselves or through their agents or privies, from embarking on any strike action pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice, which was fixed for Tuesday, February 9th, 2021.
Meanwhile, the SSG who went out to monitor the teachers’ compliance with the government’s directive to return to work, urged the few teachers who shunned the union’s order, urged them to carry out their duty, adding that it was not a crime for some persons to protest but it was not also right for the protesters to deprive others from carrying out their duty.
Speaking at Emokpae Model Primary School, Ogie said “I am here to ensure that nobody disturbs you people. Anybody has a right to protest or agitate; but you cannot ask others that are ready to work not to work”.
Reports from other parts of the state indicated that public primary schools in all the three senatorial districts were deserted in total compliance with the strike.