By Olugbenga Salami
Workers at the National Assembly on Tuesday succeeded in paralysing the administrative and legislative activities in the federal legislature as they began a three-day strike in line with their earlier warning to protest the non payment of their allowances running into billions of naira.
The protesters, under the aegis of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria, PASAN, prevented the management staff and federal lawmakers to carry out their functions till the protest lasted few minutes past 2pm
They vowed that there would be no sitting at both chambers of the National Assembly until they receive alerts of payments of emoluments owed them by the management.
The parliamentary staff had on Sunday in a statement issued by their Secretary General, Comrade Suleiman Haruna, threatened to disrupt administrative and legislative activities at the National Assembly from December 4 to Friday, December 8, 2018.
In carrying out the threat yesterday, the National Assembly workers as early as 9: 00 am stormed the lobby of the complex by barricading entrances to both chambers with banners with various inscriptions , calling for the head of the Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Mohammed Sani-Omolori over non payments of their outstanding allowances and promotion arrears.
Efforts made by the leadership of the National Assembly led by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara to plead for patience from the protesters at about 1:45pm proved abortive as they continuously chanted “No alert, no sitting”
This development made the Senate President to pause for awhile before he continued addressing the staff, who were dancing around the lobby of the National Assembly with a mock mace.
The Speaker in his own appeasement to the protesters said, “let me make a commitment on behalf of the entire leadership of the National Assembly that we are all on the same side. It is our interest to be sure good and mental condition of service and better working environment and we are fully committed to this. We will work tirelessly to make sure the conditions you have listed are met.
“As the leadership of the National Assembly, the responsibility lies on us to address these. Regarding the condition of service.
“Regarding the CONLESS (Consolidated Legislative Salary Structure), let me assure you that we are on the same page to ensure the implementation. We are not in direct control of the issue, but we have asked your leadership to give us from now till Friday.
“What I am committing to you alongside the leadership is that we must find money to ensure the implementation of your demands . But for us to find a solution, we must be able to sit down and hold a meeting. We want you to be paid but we must be able to sit down and discuss with the management on how to go about this. You should give us time to hold a meeting.
“If you allow us, the report on the condition of service will be considered immediately by the two chambers so that we can pass that immediately. We want to meet with you and communicate to you on the way forward but for that to happen, we must be able to sit”.
Earlier, while addressing newsmen, the Clerk of the National Assembly, CNA, Alhaji Mohammed Sani Omolori said that the management hope to pay the staff from the addition to the 2018 budget.
He, however, noted that if the money is not released, there is no way the management can pay the staff.
He said: “It is a matter that has been on for some time now and we have tried to explain to them; we approved salary increase for them which was captured in 2018 budget but as it is today, it is a common knowledge that the level of implementation of the 2018 budget, especially the new addition to the National Assembly, which has not been implemented –that is where we had hoped that the addition would be paid.
“So, to the extent that the money has not been released there is no way we can make the payment.
“We told them it is wrong and we tried to prevail on them to try to see through things in the correct way. As a matter of fact, I wrote a letter to them and I also had series of formal and informal consultations with their leadership up till yesterday (Monday) to make them back out of what is clearly an act that is not in tune with their own rules”.
On whether he’s worried by the action of the workers, Sani-Omolori said, “I am worried that in an institution that you think people should be able to look at things properly and then they are not looking at it that way, that is why I am worried.
“I still insist that they need to be a bit patient with the system. Like I said, in my reply to them; in an unprecedented manner, the presiding officers acceded, without hesitation to their requests for this increment. It was bargained with them and they captured it in the budget.
“So, how is it in their (lawmakers) powers, if the money is not released? And in any case, the reality on the ground is that it is not only the National Assembly that is suffering from non-release of funds. That is the reality of the Nigerian situation. So, I think we all have to be patient”.
Also addressing newsmen, the Senate Leader, Ahmea Lawan, who was accompanied by the Leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, noted that the issues raised by PASAN were genuine.
Lawan said: “Implementation of the 28 percent demanded by protesting workers will be achieved through a tripartite arrangement consisting of NASS members, management and leadership of PASAN.
“This will start tomorrow (today) in plenary. But let me say that it will be counter productive to stop plenary because this will not allow the chambers to look into the issues raised.
“The reconstitution of the National Assembly management will be done but let me appeal that the picketing should be suspended to give room for resolution.”