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National Assembly Gasps For Breath Without Service Commission


For workers who are aides to lawmakers at the National Assembly, the hope of regularising their positions brightened on Tuesday, when President Muhammadu Buhari formally approved the nomination of Ahmed Kadi Amshi as Chairman, National Assembly Service Commission (NASC).

The lawmaking body had been without a board in the last 15 months, following the expiration of the tenure of the last board on September 4, 2018.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan had on September 4, 2013, inaugurated the last board chaired by Dr. Adamu Fika.
Amshi’s nomination was contained in a letter dated December 11, 2019 and read on the floor by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan.
The letter reads: “Further to your letters (NASS/9th/S/SP/PRE/1/NASC/06/ 11/19 dated November 6, 2019 and NASS/9th/S/SP/PRE/1/NASC/25/ 11/19 dated 25th November, 2019, I write to convey my approval of your nominations for the appointments of Chairman and Commissioners of the National Assembly Service Commission as follows:
Engr. Ahmed Kadi Amshi, Chairman (Yobe, North East); Babagana Modu, Member (Borno, North East); Abubakar Tutare (Taraba, North East); Hakeem Akamo (Lagos, South West); Tunrayo Akintomide (Ondo, South West); Atanomeyorwi Francis (Delta, South South).
Others are: Bassey Etuk (Akwa-Ibom); Bailyaminu Yusuf Shinkafi (Zamfara, North West); Sani Saidu Kazaure (Jigawa, North West); Julius Ucha (Ebonyi, South East); Nnamdi Anyaechie (Imo, South East); Auwalu Aliyu Ohindase (Kogi, North Central); and Muazu Is’haq (Nasarawa, North Central).
The National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) Act 2000 provides for tenure of five years for the chairman and its 12 other members nominated from the six geo-political zones in the country.
The Act vests the power to propose the names of possible members of the commission in the President of the Senate, in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The presiding officers of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate President, shall in turn, submit the list to the President to make his pick to the Senate for confirmation.
Nigerians have been worried that since the expiration of last board’s tenure, no list of board members had been drawn by the presiding officers, thereby leaving the National Assembly Service Commission without a board.
A list of nominees said to have been sent to President Buhari by the former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, did not see the light of day due to alleged vested interests. No doubt, there had been dire consequences for not having a board in place.
The  commission is the clearing house for the federal legislature’s bureaucracy just as the Executive arm’s Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) and the Judiciary’s Judicial Service Commission.
Without the full house of the NASC, important decisions on human resources at the federal legislature had suffered greatly.
One of the immediate implications was that in the absence of the regulator, the NASC, the National Assembly leadership had resorted to extra-legal means to run the affairs of the bureaucracy.
So, in collaboration with the Clerk to the National Assembly, the presiding officers had also resorted to taking unilateral decisions and authorising approvals, which violates the law setting up the NASC.
What is more, some officers of the National Assembly had also been accused of act arbitrarily even in the sensitive areas of procurement, recruitment, discipline and promotion, because all staff appointments, promotion, transfers, as well as welfare issues, are supposed to be undertaken by the commission. These important aspects of the work of the commission had been stalled for more than a year.
According to the perking order in the National Assembly’s bureaucracy as established by the NASC Act, the Clerk, National Assembly is the head of the Legislative Service just as the head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF).
The Deputy Clerk, National Assembly and Clerks of the Senate and the House of Representatives are Permanent Secretaries. The Deputy Clerks are Directors in the Service.
There had even been outstanding critical governance issues at the Assembly that absence of the board had stalled too.
One of them is that the National Assembly currently owes legislative aides Tour Duty Allowances, a reason the workers had resorted to protesting silently.
It was reported recently that the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, were on a collision course with the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, over non-payment of members’ aides.
Report had it that workers, who are aides to the lawmakers, alleged that though their appointments were made between June and July 2019, they had only been paid for October and November.
It was reported that some of the aides had written their bosses to protest the alleged instruction by Sani-Omolori, that further payments to the workers be stopped.
Some of the affected workers had accused the National Assembly bureaucracy of selectively paying those appointed by the lawmakers as aides.
More facts also emerged that aides engaged by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege; and Deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Wase, were not the only ones affected.
Some of those in the offices of Omo-Agege and Wase had expressed their displeasure over the alleged refusal by the National Assembly to pay their entitlements fully.
Though several aides to Lawan and Gbajabiamila denied that their letters were withdrawn or salaries not duly paid, further investigations showed the contrary.
The leadership of the National Assembly was reported to have had met recently at the Senate President’s Guest House. While it could not be confirmed what their resolution on the matter was, it was learnt that Gbajabiamila had written to the Clerk, asking him to address the issues relating to the aides’ salaries.
A source in the office of the Speaker, who reportedly spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “What I know is that my boss has communicated to the CNA, that they should go and resolve it as he (Gbajabiamila) did not want the aides to see the political leadership in bad light, whereas they (presiding officers) are not in charge of their money (payment).
The Speaker was reported to have asked him to correct the errors.
The National Assembly Legislative Aides’ Forum (NASSLAF) had also petitioned the presiding officers of the parliament to rein in the Clerk to effect the workers’ payment.
There was a copy of the petition addressed to President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, dated December 9, 2019, and signed by the Vice-Chairman, Salisu Zuru; and General Secretary, Michael Oladipo.
In the petition titled ‘Re: Payment of legislative aides’ salary arrears, a plea for intervention,’ the workers urged Lawan to intervene in the matter between them and the National Assembly management.
The petition reads, “We write as outgoing leaders of the legislative aides’ forum to request Your Excellency to use your good offices to intervene in matters relating to the issue of legislative aides’ salary arrears of the 9th session of the National Assembly.”
Director of Public Affairs, Office of the CNA, National Assembly, Mr. Yahaya Dan-Zaria, was quoted as saying that several appointees started working with their bosses without official appointment by the National Assembly Service Commission. He had also stated that aides would be paid from the date on the appointment letters issued by the NASC.
Dan-Zaria said, “All of them (aides) know it; they are just trying to be mischievous. Every time money is involved in something, people always want to have an upper hand.
“The truth is that by the time you start giving people money for the work they have not done, especially when there is no letter to back it up, what do you do with auditors at the end of the year? When you are reconciling their payments, you have to look at their letters of engagement. This person got his letter in August and you paid him for June and July. It is not that the management is getting extra money from the salaries; no. This engagement is continuous. As we speak, they are still employing.”
The director explained that the first batch of employment letters issued to the aides was withdrawn after a regularisation exercise by the NASC.
He said, “There were some inconsistencies. Some of them don’t have the prerequisite qualifications for the letters they were (initially) given; some were above the letter (position) they were given and that is why some were given letters (for positions) that were higher than what they had before, while some were reduced to the appropriate levels.
“You cannot give somebody who has just a secondary school certificate a grade level higher than that of a graduate; it does not make sense.
“This is an administration. Whatever we do, we definitely have a reason for it. These are well documented issues. Nothing is done haphazardly.
“How do they even know when their principals submitted their names? Up till now, some of them (lawmakers) are still submitting names (of aides). And some of them have been ousted by courts. You cannot submit names when you are still in court. There are so many intricacies that the management has to manage, that they (aides) don’t understand.”
Oladipo said NASSLAF had yet to meet with Lawan as an appointment had not been booked.
The NASSLAF scribe said, “It is not our intention to escalate whatever we are doing in the media. We do not want to engage the press for the purpose of extracting a commitment from the management and leadership of the National Assembly. We feel that we can gain the leverage through dialogue. We are keen on meeting him (Lawan) and persuading him, that he should deploy his political will and influence to assist in getting those salary arrears paid.
“Though the management of the National Assembly and the NASC has a very compelling ground by way of the extant rules and regulations governing the public service not to have paid us, the tradition has been that arrears are paid irrespective of the date of appointment.
“From the information available to us, they said it is becoming difficult for them to do things in that manner because of petitions; that they want to put themselves in a position where they can defend themselves.”
The National Assembly, by its constitutional designation is the highest law-making institution in Nigeria. It is an independent and first arm of government according to the order of recognition and arrangement in the constitution.
By its functions, it is responsible for the enactment of all laws enforced by the executive (second arm of government according to the order of recognition and arrangement in the constitution), as well as those interpreted by the judiciary which is third in that order.
In Nigeria, corruption is seen to be synonymous to actors in the executive arm, be they bureaucrats or politicians.
However, in the National Assembly, a lot has been said and written regarding how legendary legislative corruption is, with politicians the weeping class and scapegoats, especially in the court of public opinion due to how people view them as individuals with ill-intention, no thanks to their controversial earnings in the face of crippling poverty and lack.
But, what many seem to overlook is the disposition of civil servants who run the system of the legislature, and who belong to a regulatory body that is independent of the federal civil service and its rules.
While stories have been put out there on how lawmakers make demands on government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), they oversee, not much has been written about the sundry demands of bribe being made on members of the legislature and their aides before certain things that should ordinarily be their rights are put in place.
A lawmaker resuming at the National Assembly is entitled to his/her aides, office equipment and accessories that are meant to assist his/her job as an elected representative of the people.
But, findings by Sunday INDEPENDENT have shown that getting those needs met usually come at a cost to the lawmaker as staff of the National Assembly allegedly often demand to be paid before they document legislative aides, as well as fix or replace dysfunctional equipment.
While the House Services Committee is responsible for the welfare of members providing office equipment, including official vehicles, the maintenance of such equipment lies in the hands of the bureaucrats who supply the handymen and engineers for such routine activities.
According to a senior legislative aide who shared his experience with Sunday INDEPENDENT on the condition of anonymity, such functions have been routinely commercialized as “everything goes for something”.
In his words “Everything here seems all-messed up. It is so bad that nothing gets done unless you make a deal to facilitate it. The staff will hold you to ransom if you want even the littlest of things fixed”.
“My experience has been very ugly. When I first arrived, there were just about two chairs in our office and we needed chairs for ourselves and for visitors. When I spoke to a staff from the Maintenance Unit about it, I was shocked when I was told that I will have to pay for it.
“When I spoke out about it to our secretary, she told me that it was a normal demand. But, I was shocked by the abnormality of it. My shock was not about the fact that such a demand was made of me, but it was more about the brazen nature of it. It was so casual and expectant.
“Eventually as I settled in to work, I realised that everything works like that in the House. If your air-conditioner should break down or a door needs to be fixed or somewhere leaks, you are extorted by bribe demanding officers before they do their work.
“In fact, some of the Sergeant-At-Arms would rather apply subtle begging tactics at the entrance of the complex, than do their work properly. I suppose too, that they do so to visitors. Otherwise, I wonder how many visitors manage to gain access to the various offices without visitors’ tags. But worse, is that without your invitation”, the highly disappointed SLA said.
But, more frustrating among the alleged bureaucratic misdemeanors is the demand for bribe by some administrative officials before they can process appointment letters of lawmakers’ aides, which has in turn stalled their salaries even though they have resumed work for months.
One of such aides employed by a principal officer in the National Assembly narrated how he was made to work for three months without pay due to his refusal to bribe some people at the personnel department to facilitate the issuance of his appointment letter and documentation.
“It took the intervention of my boss for some of our letters to come out. Even at that, we had to stand our grounds and threatened to report some of them before they could document us.
“Many of our colleagues working with some members have been without salaries since they resumed because, as far as the National Assembly management is concerned, you are not on its payroll until you complete your documentation. And the payment usually commence from the month you got your letter. The months you have worked before getting the letter are not paid for”, the aide said.
While attempts by Sunday INDEPENDENT to get reactions from some staff who work at the personnel department proved abortive as they refused to comment, regulatory officials at the National Assembly Service Commission also don’t want to make public comments on the activities of the National Assembly bureaucracy.
One of the directors who was approached for comments declined to speak, saying that “it is only board members of the Commission that can speak on policy matters as political appointees.”

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