The Akwa Ibom State government on Saturday administered a fresh test to the 5,000 teachers that were sacked under controversial circumstances by the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Mr. Emmanuel had said the teachers’ recruitment, hurriedly done in the last days of the previous administration of Godswill Akpabio, was infiltrated by a cartel that “sold” fake employment letters to desperate applicants.
“We have tried to see how we could get something out of that recruitment process, but believe me, the foundation was very faulty,” the governor said last November.
The aggrieved teachers armed with their employment letters and fired by the feelings of injustice mounted pressure on the state government through the media and sometimes through public prayers.
They had just approached the court to seek redress before the state government last week announced fresh tests.
A statement from the office of the Head of Civil Service said the test was “another opportunity (for the teachers) to defend their suitability and ability to teach in the State’s Public Schools”.
The statement allayed the fears that the exercise was a ploy to retrieve the employment letters from the teachers so that they won’t have proof of contract with the government.
By 8.45 a.m., when a PREMIUM TIMES reporter visited Aka Community Secondary School, Uyo, one of the three centres designated for the test, a large crowd of applicants were seen struggling to pass through the gate of the school. The government officials used a public address system to inform the teachers of what items they were required to present before they could be allowed through the gate and into the test hall.
As the accreditation was ongoing, a female senior civil servant who came to monitor the centre announced that “those people who went to court will not write this test, they should wait for the court to give judgment before we could screen them.”
Clifford Thomas, a lawyer and civil rights activist who filed a civil suit on behalf of the teachers, told this newspaper that it was “criminal contempt against the court” for the government to go on with the test when the case was pending before the court.
“A matter in court involved her (the head of civil service) as a party and she was served hearing notice, and the date for that matter has been fixed for February 20. She decided to commit criminal contempt by deciding to interfere with the justice of the matter.
“We will ask the court to issue a bench warrant on her let her come and explain why she should go and interfere with evidence and exhibits that are already in her possession in the state secondary education board
“She is supposed to have come to the court and tell the court what she intended to do, and if we agree, she goes ahead to do it.
“You can’t terminate somebody’s job after giving the person a letter of appointment. The termination was done over the radio. It is not done anywhere in the world,” Mr. Thomas said.
Most of the teachers who wrote the test expressed apprehension that the government may at the end still not be transparent and fair to them.
“I have done my best, but I can’t trust this government to do the right thing,” said a teacher who wrote his test at the Aka Community Secondary School.
The Head of Civil Service, Ekereobong Akpan, couldn’t be reached for her response.
The Commissioner for Information in the state, Charles Udoh, didn’t answer his calls when PREMIUM TIMES tried to reach him on phone.
Essien Ndueso, one of the media aides to Governor Emmanuel, said the teachers didn’t need to be afraid.
“If you are going to teach my children, I see no reason why you should be scared of being scrutinized,” Mr. Ndueso wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday. “It was simply the Use of English. 100 objective questions under 1 hour 30 minutes. Any prospective teacher sure ought not (to) complain about this.”