Clerk Appointment Deepens Cold War between Senate, House Leadership

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Clement Danhutor
The appointment of the Clerk of the National Assembly is deepening a nascent gulf between the leadership of the Senate, headed by Senate President Bukola Saraki, and that of the House of Representatives, headed by Hon. Yakubu Dogara. THISDAY learnt that both men are backing different candidates for the post in the succession battle following the notice of intent by the Clerk, Mr. Salisu Maikasuwa, to proceed on terminal leave on May 14 ahead of his retirement in August.

The appointment of Mr. Mohammed Sani-Omolori as Acting Clerk by the National Assembly Service Commission under the chairmanship of Mr. Adamu Fika has been dogged by controversy.
But Saraki has thrown his weight behind the appointment of the deputy clerk, Mr. Benedict Efeturi, to succeed Maikasuwa on grounds of seniority. Dogara, however, wants Sani-Omolori appointed, obviously, but has been quiet so as not to be seen to be going against the senate president.

A reliable source in the National Assembly told THISDAY, “After all, all the good press for Sani-Omolori is being coordinated from the speaker’s office, by his media aides. If he is not backing Sani-Omolori, I doubt if any of his aides would have the temerity to do propaganda on the man’s behalf.”
Saraki had written to Fika directing him to reverse the appointment, a directive shunned by the commission on grounds that Efeturi would also proceed on terminal leave in August this year.
A source said the commission might be right in shunning the directive.
“The senate president has no business giving orders to the commission. His role is simply advisory,” the source said.

The commission itself is divided on the clerk appointment issue, as some commissioners have accused Fika of deliberately favouring Sani-Omolori against Efeturi.
There are, however, allegations of financial inducement on both sides. The bribes are allegedly being sponsorsed by both candidates, who are said to be desperate to secure the position.
The tension caused by the on-going tussle is already polarising the staff, and there are fears it may also polarise the lawmakers, or pit the lawmakers against the bureaucracy at the National Assembly.

A top bureaucrat said the best solution may be the appointment of a neutral person as CNA, as the on-going situation is already generating tension in the management of the National Assembly management, and among the staff.

The source said, “Seniority is not the only determinant of appointments at this level. For instance, the present Head of Service was one of the most junior permanent secretaries when she was appointed. There are several factors that come into play: team spirit, rapport with the National Assembly leadership, the commission, the staff, as well as the media, legislative aides. All these have to be taken into consideration.”

A source cited several instances when the House leadership negated the Senate, despite the fact that both leaders emerged under similar circumstances. Feelers indicate that Dogara may be working to warm his way back into the heart of the party, All Progressives Congress, after emerging as Speaker against their wishes.

“The House was quick to display the copy of its budget after the senate declared its copy missing in January. When the senate said it was done with the budget and any additions should come by way of amendment, the House said it was ready to re-examine the document. The speaker seems to have positioned himself as someone the executive can approach. He even met with President Buhari in the afternoon of Wednesday, first, on the budget issue, without Saraki, before the main meeting at night which barely lasted 10 minutes,” a source explained.