By: PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Families of dead primary school teachers in Akwa Ibom state have brought their plights to public, saying the insensitivity on the part of the state government to their plights has caused them untold hardship.
They led a protest on Monday to some major streets and to Wellington Bassey Way end in Uyo, the state capital to Wellington Bassey where they barricaded the entrance of government house Uyo.
Coming under the aegis of Association of Next-of-Kin of Late Primary School Teachers (ANKLPST), the protesters barricaded the entrance to the Government House for several hours and indulged Governor Udom Emmanuel, to accede to their demands.
Addressing Journalists, leader of the association, Comrade David Essien, lamented that the affected families had written several letters and negotiations, to no avail.
The dead teachers, according to him had served the state government for upward of 35 years “before retiring to nothing as their entitlements in form of gratuities, pensions and other benefits”.
“Some of the deceased teachers served and retired as far back as 1991, yet nothing to show for services they rendered for the State before they died”, he recalled.
Another next of kin, Nsima Fidelis Akpan narrated, “My mother, Magdalene, served for 35years as primary school teacher at Government Primary School, Mbiabam Ibiono in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area and died about three months to her retirement”.
“Up till now, the family has not received anything like benefits in form of gratuity or pension as part of her reward for serving the State up to that period”, he lamented.
“Each time we come on protest like this, the government would keep deceiving us to come to day or come tomorrow, we are tired of these kind of unfulfilled promises because some of those who are supposed to benefit from this facility are sick with no money to take them to hospital, some who were in schools have dropped out because there is no money to fund their education”, he added.
In his reaction, the State Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Etim Ukpong, expressed disappointment that the state government could be so insensitive to the plight of the dead workers inspite of several interventions by unions.
He regretted that “government instead of tackling issues that bothers on workers welfare, the government would rather sponsor group of blackmailers against the organized labour movement in the state”.
He confirmed that the issue of next-of-kin of primary schools teachers had since been forwarded to the Governor for approval about two weeks to the last protest,said the NLC was yet to receive response from government.
Ukpong, who also doubles as the chairman of the State branch of the Nigerian Union Teachers(NUT), frowned at a situation whereby government could not effectively identify priorities.
He disclosedthat the “State government had recently received a lump sum from the Paris Club and was advised by the labour movement to use part of the money to clear the backlog of workers’ pensions and other indebtedness, but the government, according to him has refused to oblige”.
“The issue of next-of –kin of deceased school teachers had since passed to the Governor but we are yet to get response from the State government.
“Therefore, I cannot stop any aggrieved person or group of persons from protesting because we have done our best and the government does not seem to appreciate our effort to mediate, the government is even trying to rubbish labour leaders; they are not even communicating with us”, he added.
At the time of filing this report, it was gathered that leaders of the association were still meeting with the Head of Service (HoS), Mrs. Ekereobong Akpan. A source at the meeting who confirmed that “the issue had long been registered in the office”, hinted that the outcome of the meeting with the HoS would address some of the lingering issues.
By: PATRICK TITUS, Uyo