By ABUBAKAR YUSUF.
The Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria, PASAN and National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum, NASSLAF both of Nigeria’s National Assembly are at loggerhead over the refusal of the management of National Assembly to honor an agreement for payments of their accrued allowances of PASAN members and salaries areas and allowances of legislative aides, already appropriated in the 2021 supplementary budget between June 2019- Dec 2019.
The two formidable unions played a very crucial roles to the day to day running of the activities of federal lawmakers both at the lower and upper chambers of the National Assembly.
The National Assembly leveraged on it’s legal teeth as legislative arm of government to appropriate funds due for utilisation on yearly basis, ranging from capital and recurrent expenditures of government establishments.
This is carried out on a yearly basis through annual budgets or supplementary budgets as presented by the executive arm of government in Nigeria.
The lingering issues of agitations for payment of outstanding salaries of NASSLAF members and allowances of PASAN members had being a recurring decimal for a long time immemorial.
For ages, payments of outstanding salaries and allowances of the two bodies had being a bone of contention from one leadership and management of the National Assembly, and by extension the National Assembly Service Commission NASC , the employers of both members.
Penultimate, issues of salaries and allowances had always degenerated before interventions of management/leadership that ensured amicable ressolution.
It became worst this time around as management of the National Assembly had reneged on several promises, hinging the non payments of salaries and arears to lack of funds appropriated to it.
Sometimes last year 2021 , Nigeria’s President presented a supplementary budget and allowances and salaries of the two union workers was built into it to ensure payment on or before December, 2021.
The two unions, NASSLAF and PASAN in the eyes of the law, had the same privileges and rights, but in it’s operations, the management of NASS usually treated PASAN preferentially ahead of NASSLAF , even though, both workers had similar employment from same employers, NASC and also complement the activities of federal lawmakers, both at the green and red chambers, except one is tenured and political, while the other are employees in line with the civil service rules of engagements.
It is expected that since they had interwoven roles, their conditions of service will be similar ,but the reverse is the case in the context of the National Assembly in Nigeria.
For over two years, NASSLAF members had pursued vigorously it’s salaries and allowances statutorily due to them, without remorse from the management , especially the areas of seven months salaries between June 2019-December 2019, with no reprieve in sight.
To distract the NASSLAF members, it took the new management alot of pressure before payment of 28 days assumption of duty allowances that was paid in 2020 , with a promise to offset other allowances like Duty Your Allowance DTA, Minimum wage, CONLESS in December 2020, yet to no avail.
One year after the promise, NASSLAF was only inundated with promises both from leadership, management of NASS and NASC on their statutory entitlements, not untill early January 2022( This year), when salary arears of six months for those entitled,turned to be just a paltry one month salary arears to some beneficiaries,as series of complaints also trailed with a lot of omission.
PASAN members had no areas of salaries, but allowances promised and appropriated into the 2021 supplementary budget was splited at the expense of others by the management, that created a lot of bad blood.
For NASSLAF , no reliable information was given as to the reasons behind payment of one month areas to some legislative aides, and not seven months as captured and appropriated in the 2021 supplementary budget.
Efforts made to get detailed reasons was not honored by those concerned in the authority of the National Assembly, both at management,NASC and leadership of the 9th Senate.
NASSLAF members as orphans in the services of the National Assembly had nothing to fall back on the clarification on when payments of six months salary outstanding, allowances of DTA, Minimum wage, CONLESS will be honored with two and half years into the 9th Assembly, and seventeen months to the 10th Assembly in 2023.
What now readily comes to mind is the lackadaisical attitudes of the management of National Assembly towards the welfare of both PASAN and NASSLAF members, with NASSLAF being a critical victim in the unfolding issues.
It took alot of courage, altercations for the 8th Assembly NASSLAF to access their severance packages, that was regarded as a privilege,but not rights, along with non payments of many quarters DTA on the same stretch.
It is an issue of serious concern and embarrassment to Nigeria’s goverment, leadership, management of the National Assembly and the international communities, that often witnessed crises at the legislative arm of government of Nigeria, that was meant to appropriate funds ,but fell short of giving adequate attention to it’s immediate staffers.
It is unheard of that a situation were federal lawmakers of both chambers never had a public altercations over payment of their salaries and allowances, yet workers in the same environment that played a complimentary roles to the smooth operation of their activities are routinely enmeshed in crises of welfare.
This is unbecoming of a sane society and a good democratic setting, were ordinary welfare of it’s workers had become frequent issues of public consumption and ratification.
It is high time the National Assembly leadership go back to the drawing board to checkmate the activities of the National Assembly management in the course of management of public funds to the betterment of it’s workforce.
The allegations of corrupt tendencies and sharp practices being bandied against the management of NASS need to be investigated, and it’s activities streamlined towards workers welfare and by extension guaranteed the security and smooth delivery of dividends of democracy to Nigerians.
It is unbecoming the frequent crises between the unions and National Assembly management over mere payments of salaries and allowances that is statutory.
This is an indication that something is
wrong somewhere, and it behoves on the federal lawmakers to swing into action and the employers of the union members for a better and crises free environment.
The conduct of the current management of the National Assembly is unbecoming of a public office, geared towards promoting democracy and democratic norms in Nigeria.
Concerted efforts should be put in place to address payments of arears of salaries and allowances of both NASSLAF and PASAN members with immediate attention it deserved.
A stitch in time,they said will save nine.
Abubakar Yusuf Is A Public Affairs Analyst, Writes From Abuja.