The leadership of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Delta State Council has suspended the strike action by Teachers in public primary and Secondary schools in the state, even as the Delta State Government has declared Monday, March 27, as a day of mourning for the Principals who lost their lives in a ghastly motor accident on their way to a meeting on Friday, March 24, 2017.
A press statement issued by the Chairman of NUT in Delta State, Comrade Jonathan Jemirieyigbe, after an early morning meeting with Governor Okowa at the Governor’s Lodge, Warri on Thursday, 23/03/17, had disclosed that the meeting was fruitful and that the strike action would be called off within few days.
“Between now and Monday, we will call off the strike, we had a very fruitful discussion with the governor,” he said, adding, “we are Deltans and the Governor, Senator Okowa is a good man, dealing with us the way fathers deal with their children.”
The Union leaders described Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as labour-friendly, saying it was wrong for a section of the media to portray him in bad light as a result of the sit-at-home action embarked upon by teachers in the state.
He continued, “The governor is not a bad person as been portrayed by some people in the media, he has done a lot for us and we appreciate him.”
Governor Okowa had then expressed hope that the teachers would go back to the classroom, asserting, “We had a fruitful meeting and we discussed issues concerning the teachers and how to move our state forward.”
Those who were present at the meeting, include Special Adviser to the Governor on Labour Matters, Comrade Mike Okeme, selected local government Chairman top members of the NUT, among others.
Recall that the Delta State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, had embarked on an impromptu strike action and picketing of schools in the state, to protest the non-payment of Primary School Teachers, promotion arrears, demotion of some teachers to lower grade levels and some percentage deductions from teachers salaries by the Joint Accounts and Allocation Committee, JAAC, amongst others.
The state government had then issued an ultimatum to the teachers to promptly return to school, describing the protest action as ill advised, even as the Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Mr. Chiedu Ebie had employed the services of security men to re-open some schools in enforcement of the Government directive, but a truce had been reached when Governor Ifeanyi Okowa personally intervened and met with the protesting Teachers Union leadership to secure their consent to call of the strike and go back to school.
However, the resumption date for schools, which had been slated for Monday, March 27, 2017 had to be postponed the death of four school principals who died in a tragic motor accident along the Benin-Sapele expressway at the weekend, on the way to Kwale, Ndokwa West local government area for a meeting with the state commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Chiedu Ebie.
The resumption which was a follow up to the suspension of the three-week-old strike by teachers under the aegis of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Delta State wing, was truncated by the sad news of the sudden demise of the school heads, which compelled the state government to declare Monday, a day of mourning in honour of the fallen Education officers.
Reports indicate that the accident, which occurred close to Mosogar Bridge along the expressway, involved a white Toyota Hiace bus with registration number BEN 552 PK, which the deceased and others who sustained injuries were traveling in.
Inside sources claim that the Principals and Vive Principals were said to be coming from Benin City, Edo State, for a meeting of the association of secondary school principals, which was to hold in Kwale, Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State, when the bus had a burst tyre.
According to eye witnesses, the vehicle the principals were travelling in had left Oghara, in Ethiope West Local Government Area of the state, barely 15 minutes earlier, on their way to the venue of the meeting, when the accident occurred along the Oghara-Mosogar section of the Benin-Effurun-Warri road, due to the loss of one its tyres which resulted in the accident. Although, it was not clear how many of the teachers were in the vehicle, it was learnt that the majority of the principals were women.
The State Commissioner for Basic & Secondary Education, Mr Chiedu Ebie, who was said to have convened the meeting, confirmed the incident, describing it as most unfortunate and regrettable.
Further confirmation of the incident was given by the Delta State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Mr. Rindom Kumven, who reportedly affirmed that, out of 11 people involved in the crash, two died immediately and nine sustained injuries.
Kumven said the bodies of the deceased, who were both female, were deposited at the mortuary of the Delta State University Teaching Hospital (DELSUTH), Oghara, in Ethiope West Local Government Area of the state, adding that .
He added that some of the injured, including eight females and one male, were also taken to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) for treatment.
Reacting to the ghastly motor accident and the demise of the Principals and Vice Principal, the Delta State Government in declaring the day of mourning, as contained in a statement issued by the Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Mr. Chiedu Ebie, expressed regret at the death of the school officials.
Ebie stated that the ministry “received the news of their tragic and untimely death with great shock. The loss of these dedicated officers at the prime of their service to the state and the nation has created a huge vacuum that would be difficult to fill.
“Our hearts also go out to the other principals and director of the Post-Primary Education Board (PPEB), who sustained varying degrees of injury in the accident.”
According to him, Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa has directed that all public schools should be closed today (Monday, March 27, 2017), with the exception of schools being used for WASSCE examinations, to mourn the officers.
While commiserating with the bereaved families, colleagues and students, and praying for speedy recovery of the injured, Ebie said normal classes would resume tomorrow, March 28, ahead of the commencement of second term examinations on Wednesday, March 29, 2017.