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Disquiet, protest plans as NASS Clerk, Ojo refuses to pay legislative aides from released N8 billion

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Legislative Aides operating under the aegis of Salary Arrears Affected Legislative Aides Forum have cried out over what they called impunities of the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA) for his refusal to offset salary arrears despite releases by the Federal Ministry of Finance to that effect.

The push for payment of arrears reached tension level last week when information filtered in that the overhead to the tune of over N8 billion has been released for purposes of offsetting two years arrears of legislative aides.

The forum engaged the CNA, Arch Amos Olatunde Ojo immediately over the fund, but he denied that fund meant for payment of salaries and arrears ever hit the National Assembly Account. This prompted verification from the Ministry of Finance by some aides who refuse to disclose their identity to CAPITAL POST on Friday.

A legislative aide to a principal officer in the lower legislative Chamber who was contacted on Saturday confirmed to this Online that fund actually came into the coffers of the National for purposes of offsetting arrears of legislative aides that haven’t been paid.

And in a statement which was issued by the forum and obtained by CAPITAL POST on Saturday, the affected legislative aides lamented the refusal to pay them, saying that they would on Monday, 27th September take protest to NILDS to stop the training event.

According to the statement which was signed by Zebis Prince (South South); Tony Omali (North Central) and other representatives from the geopolitical zones, they explained that there have been disregard by the Clerk, hence, the arrears have been hanging in the last two years.

Part of the statement read: “The issue was a subject of a motion moved on the floor by Hon. Bamidele Salam under Order 8, Rule 4 (Matters of Urgent Public Importance) of the House Standing Order. The matter was referred to House Services Committee headed by Hon. Wale Raji which was mandated to, amongst other things, ‘investigate the irregularities in the payment of Legislative Aides salaries’.

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“The Committed submitted its report wherein it was unanimously resolved that the CNA ensure the payment of the salary arrears since the fund was appropriated and funds duly released.

“Specifically, we are disturbed that despite an express Legislative resolution mandating the CNA to ensure the payment of this long overdue entitlement, months after, the Chief Accounting Officer of the National Assembly have chosen to hold Honourable members and by extension the whole institution to ransom.

“The continued refusal of the CNA to pay Legislative Aides their 2019 salary arrears has created a sharp division between Aides on one hand and the Management on the other and also brought ridicule to the National Assembly.

“Despite the CNA insensitivity, Legislative Aides pushed for the sums to be included in the 2021 supplementary budget. The breakdown of the proposed sum needed by the National Assembly were Salary Arrears – N1.35 billion, Consequential adjustment on minimum wage – N1.75 billion, Shortfall – N4.9 billion, Total – N8 billion.

“The supplementary budget has since been signed into law by the President on the 26th of July 2021.

“Two weeks ago, information filtered in that the money has been released by the executive and knowing the management proclivity to nibble at Legislative Aides funds, the End Salary Arrears group mounted pressure on the EXCO to get clarity from the management regarding when they will commence payment.

“On account of our agitation, the CNA fixed what the NASSLAF EXCO described as ‘make or mar’ meeting on Wednesday, 22nd of September, 2021. In the meeting, the CNA along with his Secretary, Finance and Administration and the Secretary, Human Resources while admitting N5 billion was approved for National Assembly however denied that the money had been released.

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“Our disappointment was not just about the veracity or otherwise of their denial but more at the lack of empathy and urgency with which our matter was being treated. The amount approved was for recurrent/overhead expenditure and National Assembly being on first line charge on the Consolidated Account, such releases from experience are treated expeditiously. We are talking of salaries here.

“We would like to use this opportunity to once again express our great displeasure at the miserable and inhuman working conditions of Aides in National Assembly.

“The disdain, disregard and discrimination meted to Aides is unacceptable. Some of these capricious acts include non-payment of the routine Duty Tour Allowance (DTA), training, non-implementation of national minimum wage and the Consolidated Legislative Aides Salary Structure (CONLESS); benefits that are already being enjoyed by permanent staff of National Assembly and other workers in federal establishment.

“We will give just an example of the manifest discrimination inherent in National Assembly workforce. On April 13, 2021, PASAN (our staff sister union) entered into an MoU with the Management and Commission with the following outcomes, Minimum wage consequential adjustment shall commence from May and arrears paid by 4th quarter of the year; CONPECULIAR allowance to be paid from October, 2021 and arrears before end of the year; 10% of annual consolidated salary as leave allowance commencing from April, 2021; Hazard allowance @ 5% of consolidated salary from March, 2021; Rent subsidy @ 40% of consolidated salary by 4th quarter of the year; End of year bonus to be paid as USUAL at end of the year;
Gratuity and other aspects of Consolidated salary shall be captured in the 2022 budget.

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“Every worker deserves his wages and the best of working conditions, so while we appreciate these perks and allowances enjoyed by our colleagues in permanent employment, the question is, where lies the interests of Legislative Aides?

“We throw an open challenge to the management to show one benefit or allowance that Legislative Aides enjoy as integral workforce in National Assembly. We challenge the National Assembly Service Commission to make open Legislative Aides Conditions of Service that have been kept hidden for over a year now.

“From the foregoing, it is clear that Legislative Aides have exhausted their patience and in the coming weeks starting from Monday, 27th of September, Legislative Aides will embark on series of actions to drive home our demands.

“For starters, we shall ensure that the selective and insulting training planned for Monday by NILDS does not hold by mobilising our members to picket the venue.

“From Tuesday, we shall also picket the National Assembly complex to draw the world attention to the embarrassment going on in the nation’s premium law-making institution.

“Our charter of demands for the umpteenth time includes but not limited to the following:

“Full payment of our outstanding salary arrears from June 2019; Implementation of consequential adjustment on minimum wage; Restoration of our Duty Tour Allowance; Holistic and comprehensive training for all cadre of Legislative Aides; Release of our Conditions of Service by the National Assembly Service Commission.

“In case anyone is in doubt as to our resolve, our actions of next week will clear all doubts as to our righteous indignation and intention to legitimately demand for Legislative Aides to be treated with the dignity they deserve.
Thank you very much for your time and God bless you”, the statement concluded.

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