Labour unions across the country have given their support to local government autonomy.
They, however, called for the payment of teachers’salary by state governments.
The unions, led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), called for a comprehensive and immediate amendment of Clauses 7, 8, 162 and any other clause in the 1999 Constitution that compromises the autonomy of local governments.
They made their position known at the Intercontinental Hotel in Lagos, venue of the review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly joint constitutional review committee.
They said leaving teachers’ salaries and allowances under the third tier of government would set the education system back and further expand the gap between the rich and the poor, thereby setting the nation on a path of self-destruction.
NUT National President Comrade Michael Alogba said they wanted the lawmakers that primary school education should be a separate entity outside the local government.
Alogba said they wanted a return of the National Primary Education Council (NPEC),which took care of teachers.
“But the fact that experience is a great teacher and when primary education was put under local governments, it was suffering galore and we do not want a continuation of that. We have had a lot of argument on it.
“But today is not for preaching ,just to let them know that they are there at the instance of the people and if democracy is a government of the people, they must hearken to us. No to primary education under the local government,” he said.
NULGE National President Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel said they were at the constitutional reform to canvass the payment of teachers’ salaries, and funding of primary education should be on the front burner of the three levels of government. It be on first line charge of the Federation Account. By so doing, the three tiers of government will be forced to participate in funding primary education because of its sensitivity, he said.
He said they believed that the link between the down-trodden masses and the rich was getting weaker daily.
Khaleel said: “We are here at this constitutional reform that would make the third tier of the government more functional, more visible and the connectivity between the rural people and the governance and democracy itself to be strengthened.
“We go for autonomy, that is why we are here and when you are talking about visibility of government, the only thing that will make it visible is when finances, administration, is free from unnecessary encroachment and of course in the salaries of teachers, it was part of our document, even the memorandum we sent to the National Assembly.
“So, the NUT is our sister union and there is no ambiguity between their demand and our own. We asking for better Nigeria that would be for everybody, the Nigeria that would be inclusive, Nigeria for Nigerians and not a group of people”.
Lagos NUT Chairman Comrade Adesegun Raheem said it was wrong for it to be mooted for local governments to pay teachers .
He said they decided to sensitise Nigerians as it had happened before when local government paid teachers and it was hell for teachers.
“We had witnessed it in Lagos in 1991,1992, 1993 and those were the dark days of primary education in Lagos State.
“That was when public primary education lost value.Public do not even have confidence in it because for about,10,11,12 months, teachers were unable to pay house rents, among others.”
Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan who later addressed the protesters said the message of the unions will be passed to the committee and as a former teacher who has taught in all levels, he understands their plight.
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