Staff of the National Assembly (NASS) yesterday protested over the non-payment of salary arrears and allowances, even as its leadership rejected the 60 percent third quarter allocation the federal government gave them.
The protesters, who attempted to disrupt activities at the Assembly Complex, were however thwarted by gun wielding security agents while the men of the State Security Service (SSS) and the Police whisked away five senior legislative workers.
The arrested staff of the NASS were requested by the security agents to give written statements, but it was not clear whether they would be detained or released, as they were still being held as at the time of filling this report.
Though no reason was adduced for the delay in the payment of the salaries and allowances, it was learnt that some legislators, particularly in the lower chamber, who would not want to be quoted, said the decision to owe both the NASS staff and the lawmakers was deliberate fallout from the lingering crisis between the House, following the defection of Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and the PDP.
Attempts to speak with the chairman, Senate Committee on Information Senator Abaribe, was however unsuccessful as he could not be reached on the telephone.
Peoples Daily learnt that the Police, along with other security operatives at the Complex had swung into action the moment they sighted the NASS staff gathering for the showdown. They were said to have been disappointed with the leadership, who led their colleagues to converge at the lobby of the National Assembly chambers chanting solidarity songs.
Further, the Police said they opted to interrupt the protest to forestall the likelihood of its being hijacked by miscreants.
Acting under the aegis of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN), the workers had through a letter with reference No: PASAN/NASS-CHP/CC/003 dated 4th November 2014 signed by Stella Nwene, Vice Chairman, Caretaker Committee and internal ‘Notice to all the Staff’ signed by Godwin Kyepso, Publicity Secretary respectively, threatened to ground legislative activities at the National Assembly over the delay in the payment of last month’s salaries.
Already, some legislative aides, who served under the 6th Assembly, have already filed a suit in one of the Abuja Court to challenge the non-payment of severance allowances and unfair treatment meted against them by the National Assembly’s management.
A senior staff however observed, “That their action is a violation of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria order that the Executive Council remain dissolved pending the determination of the suit No: NICN/ABJ/246/2014 instituted by the dissolved Executive Council seeking to restrain the Caretaker Committee from running the affairs of the chapter, in line with PASAN constitution 2011, which the Court refused to grant”.
The workers had initially issued a warning letter to the management in which they dismissed reasons for withholding their salary for the month of October as baseless.
It would be recalled that PASAN had in 2012 staged peaceful protest, over the non-implementation of the 25 percent increment on the salaries every two years, as stipulated in the Consolidated Legislative salary Scale (CONLESS) which took effect from 2010.