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SALARIES: How Kaduna Teachers Suffered for Four Years Because of a “Verification Exercise” | READ DETAILS

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Kaduna Teachers Face Financial Strain as Salaries Remain Unpaid Since 2020

Teachers in Kaduna’s Kubau LGA have not been paid since 2020 due to a prolonged verification exercise, leaving many in financial distress.

Nataba Bulus, a teacher in the Kubau Local Government Area of Kaduna, was dealt his first major blow on the job in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. His salary for the month of March of that year was not paid. And even with work experience that had lasted a few years, Bulus found the situation to be strange.

It was not the type of salary delay typical of the Nigerian civil service; most of his colleagues had been paid. Also, like every other person, the economy during the pandemic had been baring fangs at his purse. As a result, Bulus made a move to find out why his salary was withheld. He searched for those who, like him, did not get paid.

At the time when Bulus was trying to figure his situation out, some 48 other teachers in Kubau Local Government Area were not paid their monthly due. Before then, most of them did not know one another. But by the end of the first half of 2020, some of the teachers had become acquainted by necessity due to how exasperating their situations had turned out to be.

WHERE THE PROBLEM CAME FROM

Bulus’ first thought was to reflect on his work in the few months that led to that day. He needed to be sure there was nothing that would warrant disciplinary action. When he was sure he had no loose ends, he began formal and informal attempts to get to the root of the non-payment.

“I decided to write and visit Kaduna SUBEB to lodge complaints,” he told The press. “I initially assumed it was a disciplinary case. But I dismissed the thought. I had worked for many years with no blemish on my records, and I couldn’t remember doing one thing in those months that could warrant a straight salary stoppage.”

Days turned into weeks and weeks into a month before Bulus was able to learn the reason behind the salary stoppage. By that time, he had met James John, Yohanna Adamu and Joel Daniel, who were faced with the same issue. SUBEB had told these teachers that their names were taken off the payroll because they didn’t participate in an audit verification exercise earlier that year.

“As of the time we initially went to complain, they said it could be network issues with our bank, but it wasn’t. When I waited and nothing was done to resolve the issue, we returned to SUBEB. That was when they told us. They said we didn’t participate in the last audit verification exercise that happened at our local government. That was one of the most surprising things I heard that year. I participated in that exercise, and I had the form with me as proof.”

Audit verification form belonging to Bulus

Apart from Bulus, other people were making efforts elsewhere to find out why they were not paid and recover their income. One of them was Yohanna Adamu. Unlike Bulus, however, Adamu seems to have explored many other options with a tenacity that, according to him, was misinterpreted as desperation. When he learned that he was not paid because of a verification, he was at a loss.

“We wrote the chairman; nothing happened. We wrote to different agencies that could help at the time, nothing happened. That was when we now got a call from SUBEB that we didn’t participate in the audit screening and our name was ordered removed from the payroll,” Adamu told The press.

“We wrote the accountant at the time, and we even wrote the State House. At that time, the accountant asked us to give them little time. From then till now, nothing has happened. The audit was financial, as far as I remember. There were even copies that we presented at SUBEB at the time. They even did a screening for all of us.”

SUBEB OR KUBAU LOCAL GOVERNMENT?

Verification exercises are not unusual for Nigerian civil servants, especially those in Kaduna State. Courtesy of the state government, SUBEB or even the local government employees undergo verification exercises for different reasons.

These exercises are carried out to sometimes fish out ghost workers, clean up the government payroll or evaluate the efficiency of the civil service. It was one of these types of exercises conducted by the Kubau local government in February 2020 that led to the mysterious delisting of these staff members from the government payroll.

All four of the teachers, who spoke to the press independently, were certain the local government had ordered SUBEB to delist them from the payroll. Some of them believe that the situation must be a result of some mistakes or incompetence in the local government office at the time of the verification.

“I don’t know about others, but I did a lot of follow-up. It was in the process that I learned from the then chairman that a local government recommendation got our names removed from the payroll. The chairman told us that if the local government brought the issue to SUBEB in Kaduna, they would address it accordingly,” John told the press.

Here is what another source, a teacher who pleaded anonymity, told the press about who was responsible for their predicament:

“I confirmed that it was the local government that laid these ‘we did not do verification’ allegations against us, when we have documents to that effect that we did it. We even did more than one verification exercise that year, and I cannot remember missing them,” John said.

“Also, it would be preposterous if we were delisted for qualification issues. As far as I and my friends are concerned, we have genuine certifications that have never been called into question. We also have proof of appointments. Those are all the possible reasons I can think of. So, it is just strange.”

Official appointment letter provided by one of the affected teachers

Meanwhile, Stephen Agunu, a former educational secretary at the Kubau Local Government Area, gave an overview of the specific verification exercise in an interview with the press. He said that the verification was ordered by the then local government chairperson. Agunu also said that the outcome of the verification exercise at that time was determined by SUBEB.

“The local government chairperson wanted to investigate schools in 2020. I am talking about the verification exercise I am aware of as ES. The local government chairman formed a committee to investigate the staff at that time, and the committee submitted a report to the state SUBEB. Whatever action of implementation after, that is solely on SUBEB,” Agunu told the press.

FOUR YEARS LATER

In the middle of the chaos, some of them, like Adamu and Bulus, continued working with the hope of a resolution. Adamu, for instance, continued reporting at his workplace for about a year without pay. However, the finances became unsustainable, and he quit.

“I was still going to work for about a year after that, hoping that something would happen. But soon, I stopped. I was borrowing money to travel from my place to the school I worked at in Kubau. The debt was accumulating, and no one was saying anything. I could not just continue,” he told the press .

Some others, like John, totally stopped working. He could simply not afford to make the occasional trips from Kaduna to his workplace in Kubau. It has been four years with no pay, and even efforts to resolve the matter have suffered at some point or another for most of the teachers that spoke with the press.

“The local government just kept telling us to wait and that they were working on it. At a point, they told us it was an issue at the office of the auditor general. We wrote to the office and went there. They told us to go back to the local government, and they kept going back and forth like we were children,” said Bulus.

“The funny part is, there were no queries, no letters, no termination letters. They just stopped paying us like that, and nothing has been done to resolve our issue. Four years later, there are no genuine reasons or explanations for our situation.”

Beyond the concern for the job, John hopes that the teachers affected are compensated when the appropriate authorities resolve the issue behind the withheld salaries.

“You can imagine working and, suddenly, you don’t get paid and this continues for six months, one year and more. Some of us have kids, a family in this economy. The money on its own barely catered sufficiently for these needs,” said John.

“Imagine now taking that source of income away without any warning and for no concrete reason. I honestly hope you can help us get to the root of this and secure our lives. It has not been very easy. I stopped following up at some point, when nothing was done.”

NO RESPONSE FROM SUBEB OR LGA

Agunu, the former educational secretary who spoke to the press, revealed that he contested the implementation of the report made from the clearance and wrote to SUBEB while still in office. According to him, a lot of things were wrong with the way the recommendations in it were implemented.

Also, the teachers, at different points in their interviews, spoke about how they had been tossed between the local government and SUBEB on countless occasions.

FIJ wrote to the Kaduna State SUBEB about the plight of the teachers on June 7, but there has been no response.

Attempts to reach the current chairperson and the education secretary of Kubau Local Government Area have also proved abortive. FIJ called and wrote to the new education secretary between June 15 and June 18, but there has been no response.

 

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