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Lawmakers Oppose Elongation Of NASS Workers’ Service Years

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A bill passed by the 8th National Assembly (NASS) to increase the retirement age and new conditions of service for the federal legislature’s workers has ran into troubled waters.

Opponents of the proposed law in both the presidency and the National Assembly, who described the bill as an attempt by the last NASS to give legal backing to an obvious act of illegality through the bill, have vowed to shut it down.

Among the moves initiated by them is to persuade President Muhammadu Buhari not to assent to the the bill it is sent to him because it would introduce dichotomy among public servants.

Titled: “Retirement Age and Service Conditions Bill” was passed in the last days of Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara-led National Assembly. It raised the retirement age of the NASS workers to 65 and years of service to 40 years.

The extant law pegs retirement age at 60 years and years of service at 35.

LEADERSHIP gathered that lawmakers and officials of the presidency, who see the bill as ploy against the Buhari administration, have vowed to stop it from enjoying the status of a law.

Credible sources in the executive arm of government disclosed at the weekend that some officials of the presidency had perfected plans to ensure that the bill does not receive Buhari’s assent.

One of the sources claimed that critics of the bill had vowed that the bill with all its “illegal” conditions of service would die a natural death.

He noted that “the retirement age of 60 and service lifespan of 35 years is applicable to every civil and public servant except judges and university dons. So, the bureaucracy in the National Assembly cannot come through the backdoor using two presiding officers that were diametrically opposed to the administration of President Buhari for four years.

The source said that “we want a clean slate in the National Assembly and those who worked in cahoot with Saraki and Dogara to frustrate the policies of the government must not be allowed to pollute the system in the next level age”.

If President Buhari assents to the bill, one of the major beneficiaries would be the incumbent clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Mohammed Sani-Omolori, whose records show that he was born on May 7, 1961 and had his first appointment in February 1985. So by February 2020 he will be 35 years in service and retired. But the bill when passed and implemented will extend his retirement to 2025 and his service tears to 40.

According to the source, “we understand the argument of the clerk and his cohorts is that the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) is empowered by law to formulate guidelines and conditions of service for the staff, hence the conditions of service approved by both chambers can take effect without presidential assent. That is utter rubbish.

“What they have done is amending the retirement age and years of service and not formulation of conditions of service; this is an alteration of a law and therefore must enjoy the imprimatur, the assent of the president for it is to take effect,” he argued.

The source continued: “Any attempt to amend a law through the backdoor by the outgone leaders of the 8th Assembly will not be entertained by this administration. We cannot allow the same people who had a field day frustrating this administration to continue undermining it in this new dispensation.

“We are going to petition Mr. President and the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) as well as the Senate President Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. They have to distance themselves from this impunity because it is built on a faulty foundation and cannot stand.

“Thank God, both presiding officers are well experienced and the speaker is a lawyer of repute/and he has also promised that there will be reforms,” he said.

Section 8 of the controversial bill states that “the compulsory retirement age for all officers of all grades in the service shall be 65 years of age or 40 years of pensionable service, whichever one comes first.”

Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives under the aegis of G-70 have vowed to get Sani-Omolori punished out for overseeing “an induced election of presiding officers in the House”.

A member of the group accused the clerk of complicity in the “vote buying and shameless inducement of honourable members on June 11.”

He said: “This clerk must pay for his sins. This is an election that was covered live and Nigerian legislature was ridiculed under the supervision of Mr. Mohammed Sani-Omolori. The whole world was watching how honourable members were snapping their ballot papers and the clerk refused to intervene.

“The most painful aspect was when our colleagues, Hon. T.J. Yusuf protested to the clerk and he tacitly approved the unparliamentary act that was introduced in the hallowed chamber.

“We will soon be going to court, but before then, the G-70 will petition the head of service and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to first query the CNA for his promotion of unethical parliamentary practices” the lawmaker said.

The situation is not different in the Senate as some senators who felt humiliated over the way and manner Sani-Omolori shouted them down during the inauguration of the 9th Assembly on June 11, 2019 want to give it back to him by the demanding for his sack or early retirement.

Two senators who craved anonymity told LEADERSHIP that they would set on course the process for his removal when they resume from their holiday.

The senators vowed that they would deal with the clerk the way he wanted to scuttle the election of Lawan who eventually emerged the Senate president through adherence to the ruling party’s directive.

They held that since the bill he hopes to fall upon to extend his years of service had not been transmitted to the president for assent, they would ensure it does not become a law till Sani-Omolori retires next year from service.

Senator Jibrin Barau (Kano North) had drawn Omolori’s attention during the inauguration of the 9th NASS to an injunction granted by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court restraining the clerk from conducting the election by open balloting.

After Sani-Omolori read the proclamation letter from Buhari preparatory to the lawmakers’ swearing-in, he announced that the elections for the the Senate president and his deputy would be conducted in line with Orders 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the 2015 Senate Standing Orders (Rule Book), meaning through secret balloting.

Immediately he made the announcement, Senator Jibrin and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (now the deputy Senate president) told him that the rule had been set aside by an injunction granted by the Abuja High Court the previous day.

The clerk responded thus: “I will answer the question from you out of respect. I heard about the court order but not served. May I appeal to all the distinguished senators-elect that the guiding principle here is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Senate Rule Book (as amended).

“Provisions in the Rule Book as regards how to conduct today’s election are very clear and that is what we shall comply with,’’ he said.

When pro-Lawan senators insisted on the conduct of the election through open balloting, Sani-Omolori responded thus:  “No question shall be entertained and no motion shall emerge. None of you has a voice here now until you are sworn-in. But for the matter of respect, I think the question is whether I entertain any court order or not and the answer is, No!” Sani-Omolori retorted.

Justice O. A. Musa of Court 13 of the FCT High Court sitting in Bwari had granted an interim injunction restraining the clerk of the National Assembly, the clerk of the Senate and the sergeant-at-arms to the Senate and others from relying or enforcing the Senate Standing Orders 2015 (as amended) in the conduct of the election of presiding officers of the Senate of the 9thAssembly, pending the determination of the suit.

The court, however, ordered the Senate to apply the 2011 Standing Orders (as amended) on the 24th May, 2011 which prescribed the use of open ballot rather than secret ballot mode in the election of presiding officers of the Upper House.

The 8th Senate at its plenary session of Tuesday, December 11, 2018 approved the conditions of service for staff of the National Assembly following the consideration and adoption of the report of its Committee on Establishment and Public Service.

Presenting the report, the committee’s chairman, Senator Emmanuel Paulker (PDP: Bayelsa) said that the National Assembly Service Commission had developed and presented a reviewed condition of service to be approved by the two chambers in a letter addressed to Saraki dated 23rd May, 2018, after which the committee was mandated to carry further legislative action on the proposal and make its recommendation to the Senate.

In his submissions, Paulker stated that the review of the conditions of service for staff of the National Assembly was in line with provisions of the National Assembly Service Act, 2014 and urged the Senate to approve the recommendations therein.

LEADERSHIP recalls that workers of the National Assembly under the aegis of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) had on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 protested against the management of the National Assembly over their unpaid allowances, salaries and other benefits.

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