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Please Reinstate Us —Suspended Abia Teachers Beg Ikpeazu

By Izunna Okafor

Following the recent suspension of over 5000 teachers by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State over 'unauthorized employment', the affected workers have pleaded with the Governor to grant them waiver and reinstate them as matter of necessity.

It would be recalled that the Governor had in early August, announced the submission of report by a committee he set up earlier this year to investigate the 'employment carried out at the Secondary Education Management Board (SEMB) without waiver', by the Executive Secretary of the Board, Mr. Lawrence Ogbonnaya. 

According to the report submitted through the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Dr. Anthony Agbazuere, a total of 5,853 teachers were employed across the state during the recruitment exercise spanning a period of three years, out of which only 187 of them were 'lawfully' employed through a waiver from the Governor.

On receiving the report and findings of the investigation, the Governor consequently sacked (with immediate effect), the Executive Secretary of the Board, Mr. Lawrence Ogbonnaya, and also directed that only the 187 teachers employed through his waiver be retained in the school system, while the remaining 5,666 teachers should be thrown out of the classrooms, as they were 'unlawfully and unauthorizedly' employed (without a waiver).

It is consequent upon this undeserved suspension, that these affected teachers have sought to be granted waiver and reinstated by the Governor, as dismissing someone from his or her work in this trying time of COVID-19 is almost tantamount to casting one into the pit of hell, considering the 'wretched' situation of things in the country now.

According to a statement by one of the stakeholders and concerned citizens of Abia State who pleaded anonymity, there are some certain questions that need to be considered in such a situation as this, which include: 'Does the Board have the right to employ its staff member?' 'What are the responsibilities of the Secretary?'  'Was there need for such employment?' 'Are those employed teachers qualified to be employed for the job?'...and many other pertinent questions.

These notwithstanding, it was gathered that these innocent employees have put over a year in the job without salaries, and had been diligently doing their job all along, until their recent suspension.

It was also gathered that the State's former Commissioner for Education, Prof. Ikeji Mgboji was present at the induction ceremony of these vibrant employees which held before the Governorship Election in 2019, and during which he charged them to be dedicated and committed to their duties.

The statement reads in parts, "It should be understood that these suspended workers are sons and daughters of this State who have worked very hard to secure the employment. It's disheartening to hear that many of them resigned their previous jobs to join the new job. So many of them have family to carter for. Some rented apartments in their work places, so as to ensure regularity and punctuality to their esteemed work; while some have spent huge amount of money on transportation to their places of assignment.

"Again, the system of education in Abia is in a sorry state especially in public schools. The last time teachers were employed was in  2006 by Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. This means that many personnel of the Board are out of the system as a result of retirement, death and change of job (transfer of service/resignation). No wonder the committee recommended for personnel audit to improve the quality of education.

"Moreover, this set of employees is full of able-bodied youths who are capable of giving the state the quality of service it desires. Many of them are NCE holders, Degree holders in Education from reputable Institutions, Post Graduate Diploma holders in Education, and Masters Degree holders, and even Ph.D holders.

"Furthermore, none of them teaches anything less than two subjects. Most of them teach more than a class of students in their respective schools. Despite the said number of the newly recruited teachers, it is worthy of note that many schools in the state still lack teachers to carry out instruction delivery in their schools. Some principals, in some of these schools, negotiate with and hire some capable individuals within the community to aid and ensure the functionality of their schools. 

"This shows how important they (these newly recruited teachers) are in the sector, and why the Governor should, as a matter of urgency, give them automatic waiver, for them to be fully integrated into the teaching system. 

"It is also worthy to note that some of these teachers had been serving in various schools as PTA teachers where they received as little as N5000 — N7000 monthly, before their employment which has also come to be suspended by the Governor," the statement concludes.

It is therefore on this note and tone that these suspended teachers pray  Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, to see the need in reinstating them, as they were aptly and procedurally employed based on merit and the need for their services, which alone necessitate their urgent reinstatement and re-engagement, even though they were employed without his waiver.

These workers are not only qualified and able-bodied youths of Abia State who deserve to be meaningfully engaged, to minimize crime and unemployment rate in the State, they have also proved to be diligent, hardworking and productive in their respective areas of service; and these the Governor need to understand and consider.

Indeed, Governor Ikpeazu needs to reinstate and get these adroit and ardent youths back to the classroom.


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