The acrimony between the National Assembly Management and the legislative aides in the Ninth Assembly has escalated, with the aides accusing management of short-changing them in payment of their emoluments.
This was as the umbrella body of the aides, the National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum (NASSLAF), vowed to employ legal and constitutional options to compel the management to pay arrears of salaries of its members, allegedly being withheld by the Assembly’s bureaucracy.
The political aides, recruited to work for the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives in the current dispensation, have been at daggers-drawn with the Mohammed Sani-Omolori-led management over payment of the aides’ salaries and allowances.
Sani-Omolori, who is the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), has been in serious disagreement with the political staff on the actual date of their appointments and the appropriate salaries to be paid to them.
While the aides have been complaining and accusing the Management of short-changing them in payment of their financial entitlements, the latter is in turn, accusing the aides of making inordinate demands about their welfare.
The disagreement between members of NASSLAF and the National Assembly Management dates back to 2016, when the aides protested the non-payment of their severance allowances, alleging that management sat on the money released by the Federal Ministry of Finance for that purpose.
Similarly, in 2017, 2018 and 2019, NASLAF had organised different protests on the same matter of either non-payment or delayed payment of their entitlements.
In each of those protests, the leadership of the two legislative chambers had to intervene to restore peace and order at the nation’s highest lawmaking institution.
Also, in the current brouhaha between the management of NASS and the NASSLAF on the same issue of welfare, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had stepped in to quell the rift.
However, it appears that the interventions of the presiding officers did not work, as the management was insisting not to implement the demands of NASSLAF members while the legislative aides were threatening not to relent until their requests were fully met.
Inquiries carried out revealed that the Management of the National Assembly did not issue appointment letters to the legislative aides to cover the period they assumed duty with their principals in June 2019.
It was further learnt that most of the aides got their appointment letters in September, which was four months after resumption of duty.
Some of the legislative aides, who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, pointed out that their appointment letters were dated September 9, 2019.
The aides stated that the practice in the previ ous assemblies was that their appointment letters used to bear the date of their assumption of duty, with their financial entitlements taking effect from the same date.
Few of the legislative aides, particularly those in the offices of the President of the Senate and the Speaker, were paid their salaries with effect from June 2019, when they assumed duty.
But, spokesman for the NASSLAF, Mr. Lawson Oviasogie, said that when the CNA learnt that some aides were paid with effect from June, he ordered that it should be stopped.
According to him, the Clerk directed that payments should be made to the legislative aides with effect from the dates in their appointment letters, leading to most of them being paid from October instead of from June, 2019.
Management had argued that it would not pay the aides for months not contained in their appointment letters, saying that doing so would be tantamount to breaching rules of engagement in civil service.
Oviasogie urged management to pay the arrears of aides’ salaries beginning from when they assumed duty.
“We are compelled at this juncture to advise the management to do the needful and avoid unnecessary distraction and waste of scarce resources on image laundry.
“Let the Clerk of National Assembly begin the payments of all outstanding dues of aides and there would be less need to engage a hireling to blow his trumpet. It is the sick that needs a physician.
“Let the public be placed on notice that as aides, we are not deterred as we are convinced of our cause.
“Having explored all internal dispute resolution mechanism, we can assure all, that we will employ all legal and constitutional means to press home our demands, confident in the fact that the victory of evil over good may be temporary, it cannot endure,” he said. (New Telegraph)