Taraba union of teachers’ crisis, legislature arm-twisting and government undertone
Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State
By Yusuf Salihu Sansani, Jalingo
Of recent the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in Taraba State has been inundated with one challenge or the other in its leadership. The very latest was the unceremonious removal of the Chairman, Comrade Peter Julius Vau not by the congress of the Union but by powers with the corridors of authority which is unconstitutional and the initial installation of his deputy, Hajiya Zainab who was later also subsequent removed on accusation that she sides with her ousted Chairman.
An “arranged” election was conducted where the removed Chairman was denied the opportunity to re-contest without any reason. However, the candidates fielded by the state government lost but later use of the some of the teachers to file a suit urging the court to declare the election inconclusive and prevent the newly elected officials from resuming duties which the court granted leading to the sealing of NUT state secretariat in Jalingo.
The Taraba State Government did not stop at that but initiated the establishment of a parallel organization to the NUT known as Association of Basic Education Teachers (ASBEC) with full financial backing, a befitting secretariat and releasing the monthly dues that belonged to the NUT.
More worrisome is the accusing finger at the Speaker of the Taraba State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Joseph Albasu Kunini for allegedly orchestrating the removal of the former Chairman, Comrade Vau who comes from the same Lau Local Government with the Speaker and the same Bakula extraction on the fringes of River Benue in Karim-Lamido and Lau local governments of the state.
Speaking with Apex News Exclusive in Jalingo, the embattled former said his untimely removal was unconstitutional, null and void and has no effect whatsoever as the state wing of the NUT is not a government agency and neither answerable to the Speaker or the State House of Assembly.
Comrade Vau described the Speaker as envious of his rising profile thereby trying everything possible to distract him.
He noted that when he came out to contest for the post of the State Chairman of the NUT in 2017, he contacted the Speaker and intimated him of his intention and sought for his support as a stakeholder in their local government and Taraba State and the Speaker really contributed his quota towards the election and when he was elected he was going along with the Speaker smoothly but debunked the claim that the Speaker singlehandedly brought him to the seat as being insinuated.
The former chairman said the problem between him and the Speaker started when the NUT in Taraba State under his watch applied and secured a bank loan of N3billion for 300 teachers which was approved on Saturday October 31, 2020 and he was directed by the Chairman of the Taraba State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Yakubu Agbaizo to present the authentic list of applicants of the loan to the Board for onward submission to the Bank for disbursement but when the Speaker learned of the loan approval, he insisted that the loan should not be released because the NUT did not follow due process and that SUBEB as an Agency of Government cannot secure any loan without the consent of the State House of Assembly. He accused the NUT Chairman and officials of SUBEB of collecting gratification of N160million from an undisclosed source to secure the loan with the Speaker claiming the NUT Chairman and SUBEB Chairman are getting N300million each when the loan materializes.
According to the ousted Chairman, the Speaker orchestrated his forceful removal in an effort to ensure that the loan did not materialized and went further by bringing the issue on the floor of the House and constituted a nine-man investigative panel into the matter headed by Hon. John Kizito Bonzena representing Zing State Constituency who is the Chairman of the House Education Committee.
However, when the report of the Committee was to be presented before the House, the Speaker directed it stepped down probably because it was not going to be favourable to him and since then the report has not seen the light of the day, nothing more is heard from the Taraba State House of Assembly on the matter.
Apex News Exclusive gathered when the Speaker realized that his effort to use the Members of the Assembly to implicate the former State NUT Chairman was futile, he and resorted to the Executive Arm of Government.
Vau maintained that the Speaker used his office to get him transferred from a teacher which qualified him to hold the position of the State Chairman of the NUT to Administrative Department in Lau Local Government just to frustrate him and ensure that he does not hold the position of NUT Chairman.
At the first instance, he wanted to refused the transfer and change of cadre but thought about the Speaker looking for ways to dismiss him from service, so he handed over the affairs of the NUT to his Deputy and reported to his new place of work. He said even when he was advised to see the Speaker for an amicable resolution of the matter, the Speaker refused to give him audience.
He said “as if that was not enough, when the time for election of new officials of the Union in the State was approaching, he picked a form for the position of the State Chairman again but the Speaker used a former State Chairman of the NUT in Taraba State who is now a National officer in Abuja and removed his name from the list of contestants which did not go down well with him and forced him to go to Court and sought for an injunction stopping the election in totality which was granted but later withdrawn.”
Vau said he is seriously worried that the issue between him and the Speaker has degenerated and taken a new dimension of threat to his life and members of his family as some months back unknown gunmen went to the house of one of his younger brothers who was fortunately out of town carrying heavy weapons and asking his sister at gun point the whereabout of her brother forcing her to call the brother on phone but luckily the call was not going through.
He said may be the Speaker is thinking that if the loan for the teachers which he openly confirmed to have stopped is released he as the State Chairman of the NUT will be praised and his reputation enhanced.
Reacting to the saga, the Secretary General of the New Association of Basic Education Teachers (ASBEC) floated by the State Government, Comrade Dauda Bakari said the Association came to being because of the kangaroo election of the union held in Donga which majority of the members of the NUT considered as inconclusive blaming officials of the union from the headquarters in Abuja for taking side.
He said the nonchalant attitude of the Headquarters from the beginning was the cause of the problems of NUT in Taraba State because there were several petitions against the ousted Vau to the headquarters which they kept mute noting that if they had acted accordingly the situation would not have gone out of hand.
He confirmed that the State Government actually released some funds for the take off of the Association, provided a befitting Secretariat and is releasing money every month from the coffers of the NUT but monies released were not dues but levies paid by members which are meant for the welfare of members during period of need.
All efforts to contact Comrade Nathan Solomon who was said to be elected chairman in the recent election of the Taraba State Chapter of the NUT in Donga and denied access to his office in the NUT secretariat in Jalingo failed but a source from the secretariat reveals that they have instituted a counter legal action at the Taraba State High Court against the lower court injunction restraining the new officials from resuming duty for lack of jurisdiction in Trade Union matters saying it is the Industrial court that has jurisdiction and seek for the reopening of the secretariat.
When Apex News Exclusive visited the NUT Secretariat all the offices were locked and security personnel said they have not been paid since that the imbroglio started.
Now, when the crisis would be resolved and NUT operating as usual, only time will tell.