By Christiana Ekpa
The lingering crisis trailing the implementation of the new retirement age of 65 years and 40 service years in the National Assembly has finally been put to rest as the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) directed the Clerk for the National Assembly, Abubakar Sani-Omolori and other staff who have spent 35 years of service or 60 years of age, to proceed on retirement with immediate effect.
The directive was contained in a press release dated 15th July, 2020 titled: ‘The National Assembly Service Commission approves the retirement age for the staff of the National Assembly Service as 35 years of service and 60 years of age whichever comes first,” signed by the NASC Executive Chairman.
The release read: “Pursuant to its mandate as provided in the National Assembly Service Act, 2014(as amended), the National Assembly Service Commission at its 497th meeting held on Wednesday, 15th July, 2020 has approved the retirement age of the staff of the National Assembly Service as 35 years of service or 60 years of age whichever comes first.
“To this effect, the Commission has approved the immediate retirement of staff of the National Assembly Service who have already attained the retirement age of 35 years of service or 60 years of age.
“Retirement letters would be issued to the affected staff accordingly,” the statement read.
Amidst the crisis, the leadership of House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila on Wednesday, 3rd July, 2020 disassociated himself from a letter purportedly issued to affirm the extension of year of service for the incumbent Clerk for the National Assembly (CNA), Mr. Abubakar Sani Omolori and some staff.
The Speaker’s response as contained in a statement that issued at 10.58pm signed by his Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Lanre Lasisi.
“The attention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has been drawn to a letter purportedly emanating from his office allegedly stating his endorsement of the new Condition of Service for National Assembly staff passed by the 8th Assembly
“The Speaker wishes to inform the general public that there was no time he directed issuance of such purported letter from his office as there is a recognized and authorized channel for all correspondences and resolutions reached by the House or its leadership.
“The Speaker also wishes to call on the general public to disregard the letter and always rely on official communication channels of the House for news on the position of the House on any matter.”
As stated in the controversial letter titled: ‘Reforwarding of Memorandum on the review of conditions of service for the National Assembly Service’, dated 3rd June, 2020 with Ref. No: NASS/SPK/ADM/VOL.1/520 and addressed to the Chairman National Assembly Service Commission, and acknowledged the same day, was purportedly signed by Chief of Staff to the Hon. Speaker, Hon. Sanusi Garba Rikiji.
It read: “I am directed by the entire leadership of the House of Representatives to acknowledge the receipt of your letter on the above dated 1st of June 2020 vide NASC/CHO/PS/II/II/94 and have deliberated on it.
“I am further directed to inform you that the entire leadership of the House of Representatives cannot rescind the 8th Assembly resolution on the retirement age of the National Assembly staff.
“Therefore, the House of Representatives maintained the position of the 8th Assembly as contained in the Conditions of Service jointly passed by that Assembly,” the letter read in part.
In a related development, the leadership of House of Representatives through its Committees on House Services and Legislative Compliance had last week interfaced with NASC Executive Chairman with the view to address various challenges facing the commission as well as recruitment exercise into the Institution.
Recall that a group of National Assembly Staff under the aegis of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) had penultimate week accused the newly inaugurated National Assembly’s Commissioners of plotting to scuttle the implementation of the Revised Conditions of Service which was approved by the 8th Assembly.
The group in a petition dated 21st May, 2020 addressed separately to both the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, signed by its National Chairman, Mr. Muhammed Usman, alleged that the Tutari led Committee recommended a reversal of the revised conditions of service which was initiated by the 5th National Assembly Service Commission.
While expressing concern over the opposition against the gazetted Revised Conditions of Service of the National Assembly which came into operation one year ago, Usman threatened that the Association will unveil the identities of “some dissident groups among the staff feeding from disgruntled elements outside the system to create an impression of a divided house”, and impose appropriate sanctions.
“Your Excellency may wish to recall that the 5th National Assembly Service Commission presented to the 8th National Assembly, a proposal for a Revised Conditions of Service for Staff of the National Assembly which was an initiative of PASAN. Both your good-self and the President of Senate, as Majority leaders of both Chambers presented and led debates on the proposal for the Revised Conditions of Service.