As the call for the autonomy of local government councils gathers momentum, hundreds of members of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Edo State wing, Tuesday, staged a peaceful protest to kick against the handover of the management and funding of primary education to the local government councils.
The teachers, who were drawn from the 18 local government areas of the State, spoke against ceding of the funding of primary education to local government councils, should autonomy be eventually granted to the councils by the National Assembly.
The protesters, who matched around the City, made stopovers at the State House of Assembly complex, the State Government House and the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, urged the Federal Government to “stop paying lip service to matters of matters.”
Speaking to journalists at the NUJ secretariat, the National President of the NUT, Michael Olukoya, said that the idea of ceding the payment of teachers’ salaries, allowances and retirement benefits to the local governments was one that would endanger the welfare of teachers, as had been experienced in the past.
Olukoya, who was represented by the National Publicity Secretary, Amos Izebhijie, described the experience of teachers between 1990 and 1994 as awful, when primary education was left in the hands of the councils.
He also noted that the local government councils lack the residual capacity to fund and manage primary education in Nigeria.
”It was experimented before and it failed woefully. That period was bedevilled by incessant strikes, school drop outs and what have you.
“We are saying that the 1999 Constitution, as amended, provided copiously for who should manage primary education and that is the state government,” he added.
On his part, the State Chairman of the NUJ, Loggle Iyalomhe, emphasised the need for the states to be financially empowered to carry out their duty.
He said that while the Union was not primarily concerned with the issue of local government autonomy, it believed that the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, which vested the duty of funding and management of primary education on the states while the local government participated, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, should be upheld to save the sub-sector from imminent collapse.
“In view of the above, we wish to propose that allocation from the federation account be reviewed upwards in favour of states to enable them discharge this constitutional responsibility effectively,” he said.
Chairman of the NUJ, Edo State Council, Roland Osakue, who received the teachers, assured them of the Union’s support to ensure that their welfare is not relegated to the background.