National Assembly staff under the aegis of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) on Tuesday shut down the National Assembly over poor condition of service.
They are protesting over unpaid salaries, allowances and promotion arrears.
The staff, who barricaded the National Assembly lobby, prevented lawmakers from entering the two legislative chambers.
They carried placards of various inscriptions some of which read: ‘Pass our Condition of Service, Senate President, Speaker,’ ‘Conless is not tied to 2018 budget’, ‘Bank loans are killing’, ‘Stop Omolori now before he stops Nigeria democracy,’ ’19 years bondage on salary arrears,’ among others. The staff also carried a mock mace, chanting solidarity songs.
They called on the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, whose terminal leave ought to have commenced since November, to immediately quit the service.
The workers at the weekend had issued a communiqué after its meeting at the weekend and gave the National Assembly management a two-week ultimatum to pay all backlog of salaries and allowances or face industrial action.
According to the Association, it would picket the National Assembly as well as the National Assembly Service Commission from Tuesday, December 4 to 6, to press home their demands.
They threatened to commence an indefinite strike from December 14, if the National Assembly management failed to meet their demands.
Tuesday’s protest led to the inability of lawmakers from both chambers of the National Assembly to sit.
Saraki, who later addressed the aggrieved workers, said the political leadership of the National Assembly would meet with management to resolve the issue.
Saraki, who addressed the workers with the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said: “On the CONLESS, which was brought before us, let me assure you that we are on the same page to ensure the implementation.
“At the leadership of the Senate, we don’t have the possibility to know if the money will be paid now. What I am committing to you is to send for the Clerk to the National Assembly and management that we must find money immediately to ensure implementation of CONLESS. Why I cannot say when now is because that responsibility of where those funds are, are not known to me.
“Number two, we have agreed that if you allow us, the report on the condition of service should be considered immediately on the issue of condition of service. We are waiting for management to sit with us. If we can meet with Management today, we will be able to communicate with you and say exactly. But for that to happen, allow us to meet with management. And let us then tell then tell us in the interim where they can get money and pay you immediately”.
The Senate president’s explanation did not go down well with the aggrieved staff who booed him, chanting: “No alert, no sitting.”
Also, Ahmad Lawan, Senate majority leader, absolved the political leadership of the National Assembly and blamed the National Assembly management for the crisis.
On his part, Sani-Omolori called for patience and attributed the inability to clear the salary arrears and allowances to non-release of funds in the 2018 budget.
Speaking with journalists at the National Assembly complex, the clerk 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.
“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.”
Asked if he is worried by the action of the workers, he 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.”
He continued, “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.”