Primary and secondary school teachers in Imo State on Wednesday cried out over the non-payment of their salaries running into 12 months.
The teachers’ protest followed Governor Hope Uzodimma’s comments last weekend that “those complaining of unpaid salaries in Imo state are ghost workers or fraudsters”.
The governor had told journalists, “This government has paid every genuine worker; those complaining of non-payment are either ghost workers or fraudsters. I am challenging anybody who has not received his or her salaries to come to Government House with his employment details and we will pay him or her immediately.”
But, in response to the governor’s challenge, the affected teachers numbering over 300 stormed the government house, Owerri with their employment details and placards.
While singing such songs as, “We’re not ghosts o; Hope, we’re not fraudsters”, the angry teachers alleged that their salaries were paid last in February 2020, just one month after Senator Hope Uzodimma became the governor of the state.
One of the teachers at Community School, Udo in Ezinihitte Mbaise LGA, Mrs. Grace Ajaegbu, who said she has spent 29 years in service, said, “I was employed and I started teaching in 1992. Since the tenure of this our governor began, I have not received a dime. The last salary I got was in February 2020. This is complete 12 months now; I have not received a dime. I’m not a fraudster as the governor claimed, neither am I a ghost worker.
“I’m old enough in the field and preparing for my retirement this year when I would have completed 30 years in service. But, see where they left me. I am a widow and running blood pressure every day. As I’m standing now, I’m feeling as if I’m going to fall. My children in the school are suffering because I’m the only one taking care of their well-being and education. As I’m talking to you now, I have not eaten anything since yesterday. What did I do that I should be treated like this?
“If you look at where we are now, it is like saying that we are almost dead. Many of my colleagues are suffering from one ailment or the other. We are pleading with the governor; we are all Imo sons and daughters and that he should please reconsider and pay us”.
On her part, Mrs. Juliet Akalazu from Mbaitoli who said she had spent eight years in service, said, “since March last year, I have not received any Kobo as a salary.
“The governor said we are fraudsters and ghost workers and that prompted us to come with every document with which we were employed. We want the governor himself to verify our claims.
“Since one year, we have done about 15 different verifications on this matter; yet, the governor doesn’t want to pay us. We submitted our documents to the office of Accountant General; we submitted to the Head of Service; we submitted to the ministry of information, education ministry, Secondary Education Management Board (SEMB), State Universal Basic Education Management Board (SUBEB), and so on. These things were done repeatedly.
“We have submitted our first appointment; we have submitted our confirmation; we have equally submitted our computer names. We have submitted everything and they captured us.”
For Justina Opara, has been in service for 28 years and currently teaching at Emii Secondary Technical School, “We have been filling forms also at NUT, local government areas, at OCDA and even at Government College Owerri.
“It has been difficult for us to carry on with our families. Some of our children are out of school, so also others. The governor is our father; let him come to our aid and remove this shame from our faces.”
They, however, appealed to Governor Uzodimma, to urgently pay the salaries and the accruing arrears to enable them to cater to their families and health needs, saying they were facing untold hardship.