From Jefferson Ibiwale, Benin
The Edo State government Saturday conducted an assessment test for public school teachers in defiance to a court order restraining it from carrying on with the exercise.
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria, NIC, Abuja division, had Friday issued an interim injunction restraining the state government or its agents, servants or privies from conducting any competency test for the teachers who are claimants in a suit filed before it, pending the determination of the matter.
The court, presided over by Justice B.A. Adejumo, also restrained the state government from carrying out any act covertly or doing anything inconsistent with the present employment of the claimants, either by withholding their salaries, allowances and or any of their entitlements or terminating their appointments, pending the hearing and determination of the case.
But, in spite of the order, the state government went on with the test which it strongly believes is in the best interest of its citizens, not minding the low turnout of teachers for the exercise.
It was gathered that less than two hundred public school teachers in the entire state participated in assessment, as most of them heeded the advice of the Academic Staff Union of Secondary School, ASSUS, to shun the test.
Seventy three teachers were accredited in Edo south, while about 14 and 12 were accredited in Edo central and north respectively.
The state commissioner for higher education, Washington Osifo, who was accompanied to the accreditation hall by the chairman of the assessment test committee, Denis Agbonlahor, said the state government was not aware of any court injunction stopping the state government from conducting the test.
“We are not aware of any restraining order stopping the test. An attempt to get an order does not in itself translate to an order stopping the conduct of the test,” Osifo said.
However, counsel to ASSUS, Olayiwola Afolabi, who was also at the accreditation venue, expressed displeasure over the state government’s decision to go ahead with the competency test even when a subsisting court injunction ruled otherwise.
He debunked allegation credited to the state commissioner for Information, Loius Odion, that the court order was not served on the state government, adding that the it was pasted on the walls of ministry offices when state government officials were evading service..
“The moment you fail to obey court order, it is contempt of court. Edo state government is not above the law. It is on record that a former Attoney-General of this state went to prison because of contempt of court order. If they go ahead with the test, we will file contempt charges against the government of Edo state and we will jail them,” Afolabi said.
There was total compliance to the union’s boycott advice in Auchi and Ekpoma, as no teacher showed up for the assessment test.
In explaining the importance of the competency test, the Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, said a few weeks ago at an Education Summit organised for the state that the exercise is meant to purge the state’s education sector of the decay caused by incompetent hands.
He said the assessment test will also provide opportunities to young capable persons, especially of Edo origin, who have what it takes to move the sector forward.