Chuks Okocha in Abuja
There is a renewed plot to remove the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sani Omolori, allegedly by the group loyal to the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan.
This followed two months respite in the National Assembly by both the supporting and opposing groups among members of staff of the legislature over the Revised Conditions of Service passed by the 8th National Assembly.
Yet, this is in spite of the fact that the Clerk is not due for retirement, but without the implementation of the revised conditions of service, he might be due to retire in June next year.
Sources privy to the plot said last week’s invitation by the Senate President to the Head of the civil service of the federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan and the first Clerk to the National Assembly, as well as the immediate past Chairman of the National Assembly Service Commission, Dr. Adamu Fika, to brief a select team of principal officers of both Chambers of the National Assembly was intended to discredit the Revised Conditions of Service and provide grounds to convince the 9th Senate to override the Resolution of the 8th National Assembly.
The thrust was to discredit the Revised Conditions of service and pave the way for the removal of the Clerk of the National Assembly on the grounds that it was inconsistent with the civil service rules.
THISDAY source also stated that the Revised Conditions of Service was not the main problem why the Senate leadership wanted the Clerk removed, but the fact that Sani-Omolori was to be a beneficiary of the extended years of service provided in the new Conditions of Service.
According to the source, “In fact, our informant holds it in good authority that if Omolori is axed from the National Assembly Service, the five year extension in the Revised Conditions of Service will be automatically restored even if it is removed now. Our source holds that the Senate President has been nursing personal animosity against Omolori for a long time and has been looking for a platform to vent his anger on him.”
THISDAY gathered that some of the alleged grievances of the Senate President against Omolori included the fact that while he was a Director in the Legal Department of the National Assembly, Omolori held back a bill sponsored by Lawan, which was sent to the Department for clean up and the bill took long before Omolori brought it out.
He also alleged that Omolori as secretary to a subcommittee, which Lawan chaired, when Dr. Olusola Saraki was Senate President, never picked Lawan’s calls after office hours and in most cases, Lawan had to contact Saraki to compel Omolori to pick his calls.
Lawan was also said to have alleged that, when he was contesting for office of the Senate President, Omolori refused to support him and instead supported Senator Alli Ndume. He was said to have also alleged that Omolori refused to adopt 2011 Senate Rules to conduct the election of the presiding officers in the 9th National Assembly and instead insisted on using the 2015 Senate rules, which he considered unfavourable to him.
THISDAY gathered that even though the issues raised by Lawan were personal and had nothing to do with the official conduct of the Clerk to the National Assembly, the President of the senate was bent on having his way against Omolori even if it would destroy the bureaucracy of the National Assembly.
Many stakeholders in the National Assembly including some former Clerks to the National Assembly were said to have intervened in the matter issue but Lawan allegedly insisted Omolori must go.
THISDAY reached out to a close aide to the Senate President who didn’t want to be named because he is not authorised to speak on the matter, he however dimissed the allegation against the Senate President, describing the allegations as a fabrication by dubious and mischievious people hell bent on rubbishing the intergrity of the Senate President and undermining his achievements.
However, as part of the plot to ease out Omolori, the Senate President deliberately ensured that his former Senior Legislative Aide, Kardi Amshi was appointed the Chairman of the National Assembly Service Commission to execute his plan and carry out his directives.
According to a source, “How else will anyone explain the fact that for the first time since 2000, this set of Commissioners after inauguration embarked on a two-week retreat without involving the management of the National Assembly and former Clerks to the National Assembly, who would have provided them with benefit of information and wealth of experience on the issues of relationship between the Commission and the National Assembly management and other related bodies in the legislature”.
It was learnt that the Service Commissioners went for the retreat and on resumption set up a committee of six members to review the Revised Conditions of Service and never got brief from the Management of the National Assembly, adding that, when they sent request for information on the procedure for the adoption of the conditions of Service by the two chambers, the committee had already submitted a pre-prepared report without input from the National Assembly management and staff union, whose initiative gave birth to the Revised Conditions of Service.
The 8th National Assembly, in attempt to solve a protracted protest for proper remunerations and agitations for new conditions of service in the National Assembly, obliged the last set of Commissioners of the National Assembly the proposal for a review of staff Conditions of Service.
The two chambers of the National Assembly considered the proposal following eloquent arguments presented in favour by the two leaders of the Senate and the House respectively, Senator Lawan and Hon Femi Gbajabiamila. Both leaders of the two chambers in the 8th National Assembly were the presiding officers in the 9th National Assembly.
Following the controversy that ensued with the Ahmed Kardi Armshi-led National Assembly Service Commission on the Revised Conditions of Service, the Staff of the National Assembly had been pitted against each other for the past two months.
But, when the Commission forwarded its report to the two chambers to review the age extension part of the Revised Conditions of Service, the House of Representatives leadership led by the Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila stood in favour of the Resolution of the 8th National Assembly and refused to rescind the decision.
The House held that the overriding public interest of capacity building in the National Assembly intended by the five years extension on age of Service in the National Assembly, should take priority over personal animosity of any individual.
Even when the Senate President, not satisfied by the decision of the House of Representatives and scheduled a joint meeting of the principal officers of both chambers, the House leadership still maintained its decision as representatives of the people.
For the avoidance of doubt, the House of the Representatives leadership did not just decide to support the Revised Conditions of Service just for the sake of it, the House is aware that the Revised Conditions of Service for staff of the National Assembly was passed by the 8th National Assembly after a painstaking process and could not be thrown away for no justifiable reason.
In fact, the House is aware that before the Resolution was even presented on the floor of the two chambers for debates, the two presiding officers of the 8th National Assembly held separate meetings with the stakeholders in the National Assembly on the matter.
Then President of the Senate, Saraki called a meeting of the Executives of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN), who were in office that time and who were the architects of the proposal for the revised Conditions of Service.
Present at the meeting was also Lawan, who was the Senate Leader and in fact, the person, who led debate on the proposal on the floor of the Senate. The minutes of the meeting, from good authority, was taken by Hakeem Baba Ahmed, who was Chief of Staff to the Senate President.
The Senate President listened to the PASAN officials led by Comrade Bature Musa to defend the proposal and they were able to convince the Senate leadership on the proposal.
The Senate President went further to invite the then Chairman of the National Assembly Service Commission and other Commissioners on the matter and after an elaborate and convincing debate, the President of the Senate allowed the proposal to be tabled on the floor of the Senate by the Senate leader, Lawan.
In the same way, the Speaker of the House then, Yakubu Dogara engaged the PASAN officials and members of the Commission. It was after all those processes that the proposal was tabled in the House and the debate, led by then Leader, Gbajabiamila.
Interestingly, and from an impeccable source, when the current Commission ignited the debate on the already implemented Revised Conditions of Service and sent their position paper to the two chambers to reconsider the Resolution, the House of Representatives leadership invited the Clerk to the National Assembly and listened to his own side of the story. It was after listening to him that the House leadership rose with one voice to stand by the Resolution of the 8th National Assembly.
As at press time, Lawan has yet to invite the Clerk to the National Assembly to listen to him if he felt there was any new story or development about the Revised Conditions of Service, but he preferred to invite an executive appointee, Dr. Yemi-Esan, who has no locus standi in the matter to appear before a joint meeting of the principal officers of the National Assembly.
Even when the matter was brewing serious misunderstanding among staff and the story of “smuggling” the five years extension into the Conditions of Service was peddled, the Department of State Security Service (DSS) invited the PASAN officials both the old and new executives as well as the chairman of the commission for a meeting.
During the meeting, the past Exco of PASAN presented documentary evidence to prove that the process of presenting the proposal to the Commission and leadership of the National Assembly was transparent and included all the clauses and prayers, which the 8th National Assembly considered and passed in the Revised Conditions of Service.
The source told THISDAY that, “We have it on good authority that even the Chairman of the Commission was surprised after he witnessed the presentation by PASAN officials, which contradicted his own position on the matter.
“The position of the House of Representatives ought to have been adopted by the Senate in keeping with the synergy through which both Chambers operate, but Senator Lawan would not have it. He is searching for loopholes”.
Undaunted, Senator Ahmad Lawan has been looking for a way to convince the House to stand against a Resolution that is meant to reposition the legislature that has suffered so much in the face of military interference in governance over the years and needed this breath of freedom to develop her human capacity structure.
Lawan’s latest antics of hosting the Head of the civil of service of the federation and Adamu Fika in a closed-door meeting were another fruitless campaigns.
It is clear by the provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the National Assembly is an independent arm of government and not under the authority of the Head of the civil Service of the Federation.
The letter from the Head of service purported to be a response to the leadership National Assembly has no use, because an appointee of government, which is what the Head of service is, has no power over the National Assembly.
To even contemplate a letter to the National Assembly on the Revised Conditions of Service and make comments on the salary of staff of the National Assembly by the Head of Service is overreaching herself as she has no locus in law and status so to do.
“It is also clear that by the interpretation Act second schedule, the National Assembly is a public service and not a civil service under the control of the Head of the civil Service of the federation. Thus, the Head of Service of the federation should not ordinarily have a say on the revised Conditions of Service of the staff of the National Assembly.
“The National Assembly Service Commission Act 2014 as amended empowers the Commission to regulate the operations of the staff of the National Assembly including fixing of salaries. The action of the last commission to propose to the National Assembly a review of the Conditions of Service for staff of the National Assembly and passage of the same by the 8th National Assembly was legally executed.
“It is therefore incumbent on the Senate President and indeed the leadership of the Senate to recuse itself from the vengeful undertaking by Senate President Ahmad Lawan and save the bureaucracy from unnecessary politicisation.
“It also beats sane imagination why Dr. Fika would accept to be used as a tool to destroy a house he started building when Gen. Ibrahim Babangida appointed him as Director General/Clerk Designate of the National Assembly following decree 48 of 1988.
“He served as Ckerk to the National Assembly from 1988 to 1994 and Chairman, National Assembly Service Commission for five years. It was under his leadership that the Revised Conditions of Service was presented to the National Assembly,” THISDAY was told
If Omolori was successfully pushed out, the next beneficiary is Bala Yabani, from National Assembly Legal Department. He is incidentally from the same Yobe State as Lawan. This is why the revised condition of service is believed to be causing a lot of crisis within the National Assembly.