The National Industrial Court of Nigeria on June 26, 2018, granted the reliefs sought by the teachers.
The Rivers State government has consistently disobeyed a subsisting court judgement that ordered the immediate payment of the salaries of teachers.
The salaries of the affected teachers had been stopped by the state government for five years, leading to litigation and protests over the matter.
The affected primary and secondary school teachers working in the staff or demonstration schools of Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Ignatius Ajuru University of Education and Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic.
In a court document obtained by SaharaReporters, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria on June 26, 2018, granted the reliefs sought by the teachers.
The court held that the teachers' employments are valid, adding that the stoppage of the payment of their salaries by the state government was unlawful.
The document reads: “That the Claimants' respective employments are valid and subsisting because they have statutory protection.
“That the 1st Defendant's directive stopping the payment of the Claimants' salaries is unlawful, null and void.
”The Defendants are restrained whether by themselves or through their agents, privies or proxies from interfering with the employments of the Claimants in a way that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology Law and the Regulations Governing conditions of service made thereunder or any law in force.
“That the Claimants have not strictly proved that they are entitled to the payment of their respective salaries, allowances and emoluments because they are special damages that need to be strictly pleaded and proved.
“They cannot be presumed to flow from the nature of the breach. See Institute of Health ABU Hospital Management Board V. Anyib (2011) LPELR 1517(SC) and Obasuyi V. Business Ventures Ltd (2000) NWLR (PL658) 668.
“Cost of N2,000,000.00 is awarded to the Claimants against the Defendants and shall be paid within 30 days from the date of this judgment.”
SaharaReporters gathered that after the judgement was delivered, the Rivers State government appealed the industrial court judgment at the Court of Appeal.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal struck out the appeal filed by the state government in October 2020 for improper entering of the wrong appeal.
The court of appeal held that: “Appellants filed a Motion on Notice on 8/10/2019, for leave to amend their Notice of Appeal, filed on 13/6/2018. Their said Appeal raised or intends to raise (at the Court of Appeal) question of the fundamental right, raising a ground of appeal or issue on the question of fair hearing or fundamental rights by the appellant, in my view, is quite a different thing from the Suit, at the lower Court, being one of Fundamental Rights, under Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution.
“While the former has to do with an issue of fair hearing or fundamental right, which can arise in any appeal process, the latter has to do with the entire Suit, being one fought or founded on the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules, 2009, in which the principal/primary claim was/is a fundamental right claim, not ancillary."
A source told SaharaReporters that the Judges of the Court of Appeal further cautioned agents of Rivers State government in court for appealing such issues.
He said: “The affected primary and secondary school teachers are of Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Ignatius Ajuru University of Education and Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic Staff or demonstration schools.
“The Rivers state government knew they had no case and was just running around the courts. The Court of Appeal struck out the matter for lack of proper entering of appeal. One year after, the Rivers State government is yet to obey a subsisting court judgment.
“The same governor (Nyesom Wike) is accusing NBA (Nigerian Bar Association) of not engaging in judicial activism. Isn't that hypocrisy?”
On Monday, teachers of demonstration primary and secondary schools in the state alongside members of civil society organisations staged a protest at the venue of the Nigeria Bar Association conference at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt.
The teachers are demanding the payment of their five years salaries as Governor Wike was present at the event.
Some of the aggrieved teachers regretted that the state government had ignored their plights despite holding a series of protests over the issue.
They appealed to lawyers to prevail on the state government to obey the Court of Appeal judgement which was in their favour.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Chairman of the Rivers Civil Society Organisations, Enefa Georgewill questioned the state government’s refusal to pay the salaries of the teachers for about five years.
He said, “The office of the Rivers State Governor is a creation of law and if a court of competent jurisdiction has given an order, for goodness sake, everybody must obey.
“You said that they are collecting school fees therefore they should pay themselves but the question is; are they the Vice-Chancellor that is controlling the fund?
“We don’t have issues with the governor but we are saying that the governor should do well to obey the subsisting court order.
“That is not too much for the teachers to ask for.”
Sadly, Wike in March gave the artistes who performed at singer Burna Boy’s homecoming concert N10 million each.
The concert which was held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital was organised by the state to honour Burna Boy following his Grammy Award win, and Wike had pledged to gift them the amount.
During the concert, Wike said, “Those of you who have come to play, whatever you have agreed with the ministry of culture and tourism is not my business.
"All of you that have come today and the Niger Delta people that have come to play today to show the talent you have, I’m very proud of you. All of you will go home with N10 million each.”
The Commissioner, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Tonye Briggs-Oniyide, in a statement issued on Wednesday, March 31, disclosed that the governor had redeemed his pledge of paying N10 million each to the artistes, all while the teachers were being owed salaries.