At the level of small talk, you could hardly best Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori, the big, astute Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA). But for a legal-cum-administrative guru and consummate public servant more at home with analysis and action, this trend of dialogue could easily lose its attraction. This is because the management of Abuja’s massive, influential national legislative bureaucracy does not permit of routine laissez-faire.
The above summative verdict flows from the somber atmospherics and nuances of obligatory positive actions that must be taken in the enterprise of managing the administrative infrastructure of the Federal Legislature for the wellbeing of staff members and elected members who are the reasons the National Assembly, the Service Commission and the Institute of Legislative Studies- the intellectual wing of the arm of government-exist.
The process that underpins their existence continues ad-infintum. As the 8th National Assembly is drawing to a close, members-elect of the 9thNational Assembly that would be inaugurated in June, this year, had already been taken through an induction programme by the Sani-Omolori-led bureaucracy in conjunction with Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC). The programme was executed within a space of two weeks to acquaint members-elect, especially first-time members, with the workings of the Legislature.
Inducted in two batches, members-elect of both Senate and the House of Representatives were opportune to interact with one another in a setting that bore some similitude with a joint sitting of the National Assembly. Participants were made to understand their onerous lawmaking responsibility. There were verbal exhortations on the imperative of patriotism and commitment to country and the inevitable pressure of reasonable expectations by the electorate.
Such expectations include addressing deep-seated poverty, insecurity and dilapidated infrastructure, etc, through the deployment of robust legislations. The meeting of minds at the programme took place in a conducive environment provide by the Transcorp Hilton Hotel. Overall, the organisation was of international standard. Resource persons lived up to their billings.
Indeed, the magnitude of the programme and other such efforts, initiated by the NASS bureaucracy headed by Sani-Omolori, validates the arguments in some quarters that the twenty-four hours in a day and round the year are not enough for the highly-motivated team to cover the entire field of administrative, innovative and transformational development in the conclave of the National Assembly.
Thus, sitting sure-footed in the driver’s seat of the National Assembly bureaucracy is not swag of frivolity but a burden of commitment that Sani-Omolori’s shoulders are wide enough to carry. Absorbing pressure in an osmotic manner, Sani-Omolori’s restless and incisive mind continues to crave the institution of excellent service delivery in the running of the National Assembly bureaucracy.
Deploying a model organisational template since his substantive appointment as the fifth CNA on the 16th of May 2016, Sani-Omolori has indisputably and positively impacted the landscape of the nation’s apex legislative body and revamped its administrative processes, flow and function. Constitutionally empowered to conduct the election of presiding officers of the National Assembly and swear-in those elected, a very thorough, principled and focused Sani-Omolori is ready to perform that assignment for the first time in June with a high sense of responsibility and distinction. He has the standing rules of the Senate and the House to guide him in that enterprise.
He had assumed office after the 8th National Assembly had been inaugurated about a year earlier by his predecessor, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa. Sani-Omolori, like Maikasuwa, came into the job with vast knowledge, experience and understanding of how the Legislature works. But some humorous analysts might be tempted to say that the blue-blooded CNA, who is also the Ciroma of Ebiraland, brings an unfair advantage to his brief.
Validations: His first managerial position in the National Assembly was acting Director of Legal Services Department in 2002 where he became a substantive Director in 2007 and served for three years. Sani-Omolori was promoted to be the Clerk to the House of Representatives on February 5, 2010 where he served until his appointment, first as the acting CNA and shortly in substantive capacity. While the crop of analysts who hold such quirky view may well have their point, this hardly diminishes the towering qualification of the man, his guts and compelling career trajectory. To be sure, Sani-Omolori has the law in his head and the rules in his hand.
On the heels of his appointment, Sani-Omolori rolled out his transformational blueprint by immediately up-scaling the facilities and technological proficiency of the bureaucracy and workforce in general. A firm believer that a human work environment should function optimally, he initiated massive renovation of the buildings, improved security and parking lots, among others.
Indefatigable, purposeful and result-oriented, he pushed for better and improved welfare of staff members. He encouraged a well-trained workforce to withstand the rigours of administrative and legislative work together with the related demands of lawmakers through training and re-training initiatives and programmes as well as periodic retreats for brainstorming and recreation.
The CNA also constantly interfaces with various categories of staff members and departments for first-hand knowledge of their operational challenges while he maintains and ensures a peaceful and harmonious working relationship with the 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives, including their various principal officers.
Always calm in difficult situations; yet, he is pragmatic in decision and actions. He demonstrated his commitment to a 21st Century NASS through the provision of state-of-the-art work facilities. Similarly, he initiated a standard restaurant for legislators and their visitors and another at the annex through a PPP arrangement for staff members. Then, there are the new parking lots which have been allocated to staff members. This has reduced the uncontrolled parking of vehicles on the premises.
To deal with reported cases of car thefts, the NASS complex now wears a bright look at night as a result of the illumination with the powerful lighting system located at strategic positions in the complex. Security has also been tweaked to check the activities of unwanted guests and possible intruders to the complex.
Only the CNA receives the Commander-in-Chief and ushers him in during any joint session of both chambers. Sani-Omolori had the privilege of managing the last budget presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari when he brilliantly brought proceeding to a close when some members were making it difficult for Speaker Yakubu Dogara to give his vote-of-thanks speech. The CNA also signs-up bills passed by both chambers for onward transmission to Mr. President. Sani-Omolori had signed many bills and had transmitted clean copies of the bills to the president for his assent or otherwise.
He also evolved the clock-in tech for the institution with a legislative workforce of over 5,000. He introduced the Open Week which gives sufficient opportunities to Nigerians, CSOs, CBOs to interface with the members and management of National Assembly. Sani-Omolori is greatly admired and highly respected by both fellow bureaucrats and politicians who he interfaces with regularly in and outside the National Assembly.
This speaks to his focused drive for a professional and highly-motivated workforce that will deliver efficient services at all times. It could be recalled that he inaugurated a Committee on Personnel Audit on Tuesday, 20th December, 2016 with the mandate to ascertain the actual staff strength, structure and distribution of staff required for an ideal legislative management system.
Sani-Omolori’s resourcefulness in legislative matters flows from knowledge acquired at different times as well as cognate experience gained over the years. Admitted into the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, in 1979 for a Law Degree, he graduated in 1982 with LL.B (Hons). Thereafter, he proceeded to the Nigeria Law School, Lagos in 1982 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1983 as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
From a field that cannot be exhausted in this article, Sani-Omolori has Certificate in Legal Drafting from the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (1991); Certificate in Legislative Drafting from the Royal Institute of Public Administration, London (1982); and another Certificate in Drafting from Public Law Centre, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A (2001).
Besides acquiring yet another Certificate in Parliamentary Administration in November, 2004, he had attended many seminars, workshops and conferences notable among which are: African Bar Association conference, 1991: Conference for Clerks of National/State Assemblies; Commonwealth Association of Legislative Counsels Annual Conference, NICOSIA, Cyprus; International Bar Association conferences: Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conferences; and several Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) conferences across the world.
To different folks, Sani-Omolori means many things. While some simply know him as the Clerk to the National Assembly of Nigeria, many others see him as a consummate lawyer, an accomplished technocrat, a great philanthropist and a servant leader. Significantly, Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori is all of these and more.
––Ojeifo, editor-in-chief of The Congresswatch Magazine, contributed this piece via email@example.com