Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha and Udora Orizu in Abuja
Determined to seek redress following perceived injustice, outgoing Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Sani Omolori, has faulted the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) over its decision to compulsorily retire him and 149 others. Omolori said the law cited by the commission for its action never existed and all the decisions made with respect to it were null and void.
In yet another statement, dated July 16, 2020, and addressed to the chairman of the commission, Ahmed Kadi Amshi, Omolori said the press release he issued on the development, which was queried by the commission, was not intended to undermine the body. He said he only wanted to clarify the issues at stake in order to ensure peace within the National Assembly workforce.
NASC had on Thursday queried Omolori for rejecting retirement following a press statement he issued describing the decision of the commission as illegal. He contended that there was no legal basis for the recent mass retirements, as the National Assembly Service Commission Act 2014, upon which the commission based its action, did not exist in law and, therefore, all actions built on it were null and void.
In a letter dated July 15, 2020 and addressed to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, a copy of which was sighted at the office of a presiding officer of the National Assembly, the embattled top bureaucrat and lawyer alleged serious anomaly with regard to the National Assembly Service Commission Act 2014 as passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President.
The said act was signed into law in 2014 by then President Goodluck Jonathan, when Senator David Mark was senate president, and Aminu Tambawul, was Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The seven-page letter by Omolori, which was also copied to the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, and Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Idris Wase, as well as the 14 principal officers in both chambers of the National Assembly, addressed the on-going controversy over responsibility for final approval of the conditions of service for the National Assembly.
Omolori chronicled the various processes leading to the repealing of the National Assembly Service Commission Act, Cap N7, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, and re-enactment of the National Assembly Service Administrative Structure Bill, and claimed that the bill signed into law by Jonathan omitted Section 19 (2) of what was passed by the National Assembly. He said the omitted section 19 (2) was what ought to give legal authority to the National Assembly Service Commission for all its actions.
Omolori explained, “The clear implication, Your Excellencies, is that anything done or purported to have been done under that Act is null and Void. It, therefore, means that the purported repeal of the National Assembly Service Act, Cap N7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014 as contained in Section I (l) of the National Assembly Service Commission Act of 2014 is of no effect as we must fall back on the National Assembly Service Act Cap N7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.”
He stated in the letter, “I write to draw your attention to a very serious anomaly with regard to the National Assembly Service Commission Act 2014 as duly passed into law by the National Assembly and as assented to by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“It will appear that the on-going controversy as to who is responsible for the final approval of the conditions of service for the Assembly, promoted some concerned individuals, present and former lawmakers, who were privy to the process of enacting that Act to draw attention to a huge gap between what the 7th Assembly passed and what is now in circulation as the Act.
“In view of my onerous duty as the Clerk of the National Assembly and the seriousness of the concerns raised, it became highly imperative to investigate the facts and circumstances of the matter. My findings are presented below.
“On Wednesday, 15th May, 2013, the House of Representatives resolved into a Committee of the Whole and considered the report of ‘A Bill for an Act to Repeal the National Assembly Service Commission Act, Cap N7, Law of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Re-Enact a National Assembly Service Administrative Structure Bill for improved Service Delivery; and other Related Matters’) (hereafter referred to as ‘the Bill’).
“The particulars of the Bill as considered, passed and adopted on that day are in Appendix G A’ (pages 876-887). You may wish to note particularly Clause 19 (1) and (2) on page 883. On Wednesday 11th December 2013, the Senate resolved and considered part of the Bill in a Committee of the Whole and deferred further consideration to another Legislative Day.
“The Senate Votes and Proceeding marked as Appendix ‘B’. The Senate resumed consideration of the Bill on Wednesday, 9th March, 2014, approved the Report in Plenary – adopted the Bill – read it the third time and passed it on the same day. As the Bill passed by both Houses had differences, a harmonisation committee was constituted in both Houses in line with Parliamentary rules to meet and reconcile the differences.”
He explained that the details of the harmonisation report, which showed graphically what both chambers adopted and the conference recommendations in the areas they had differences, was contained in Appendix “E”.
Omolori stated, “On the 27th May 2014, the House received and adopted the harmonisation report of the Bill. On the Senate side, the report of the Harmonisation Committee was laid on 27th May 2004 and adopted on 5th June 2014. Curiously, the bill signed into an Act by the president omitted Section 19 (2). Your Excellencies, it is obvious from the above sequence that the Act represents any other thing but the wishes of the parliament.
“For to become an Act as a binding law, it must go through the legislative process and duly passed by the parliament. Thereafter, the president assents to it. The unique but compulsory requirement is that the chain must be unbroken to the extent that the president is to sign the bill as passed by the parliament. No omission and no addition except for a veto, which will call for further legislative action.
“In the circumstances of this Act and with this obvious omission, I advocate that we do the needful. Indeed, we should be mindful of this omission and, in the least, give expression to the wishes of the parliament.
“As it stands, therefore, the authenticity and legality of the National Assembly Service Act, 2014 standing as part of our existing laws is untenable. To the extent that is it different from what the parliament passed, by any reason whatsoever, it must be expunged from our statute books.
“I need to say, with emphasis, that the votes and proceedings of the parliament is the sole authority for any law — it is the only document that states the parliamentary resolutions and anything that is contrary to it (either by omission or commission) cannot pass as a resolution of the parliament.”
Omolori maintained, “It therefore means that the purported repeal of the National Assembly Service Act, Cap N7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014 as contained in Section I (l) of the National Assembly Service Commission Act of 2014 is of no effect, as we must fall back on the National Assembly Service Act. Cap N7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. I intend to take necessary steps to ensure that this illegal Act is consigned appropriately.”
Clarifying his intentions in the three-page release, he said though the statement might appear as insubordination, it was actually meant to obviate a situation where the NASC would be seen as being insubordinate. He appealed to the chairman of the commission to consider the press release as a patriotic duty to save the National Assembly.
Omolori stated, “I am in receipt of the above vide your letter Reference No. NASC CHO/1/2 dated 16 July 2020 and wish to inform you that the press release issued was not intended to dictate to or undermine the commission but to clarify the issues at stake in order to ensure peace and tranquillity within the Assembly workforce.
“As the Clerk to the National Assembly, it is my responsibility to ensure staff matters are clearly disseminated at all times and to see to the efficient functioning of the legislative bureaucracy. The press release was, indeed, issued sequel to an emergency top management meeting I summoned yesterday as soon as my attention was drawn to your press release.
“It is also important to state that I was compelled to issue that statement via a press release as the circular from your office was brought to our attention via a press release instead of an administrative notice to my office as the Head of Legislative Service. It is imperative to recall my earlier letter Reference No NASS/CNA/15O/VoI3/698 drawing your attention to the defects in what the commission relies on as the National Assembly Service Commission Act 2014 and the consequences thereof.
“You may also wish to recall that you had written a letter to the leadership of the National Assembly canvassing a reversal of the Resolution of the 8th Assembly on the Condition of Service. Management is aware of the following. That the leadership of the House of Representatives rejected the request to reverse the Resolution and you were informed of this decision vide letter No. NASS/HR/LEG/14/3/30 dated 4th June. 2020.
“Management is also aware that the meeting of the joint leadership of the National Assembly had been conveyed on more than one occasion to deliberate on your request. Management is further aware that no decision had been taken at the joint leadership meeting so far on the matter.
“While Management considers that placing the matter before the leadership of the National Assembly accords with the spirit and intent of the authentic National Assembly Service Commission Act 2014, it will be premature to communicate any contrary decision at this time. It is in view of the foregoing that Management considered it imperative.
“In the circumstances, Mr. Chairman should kindly consider my press release as a patriotic duty to save the National Assembly that we both have committed to serve faithfully. In answering your query, it is important to highlight that while you may rely on Section 65 of the ‘Act’ to issue the query, however, as it relates to the Office of the Clerk to the National Assembly, Section 10 is quite instructive.”
The NASC had on Friday approved the retirements of Omolori and about 149 senior management staff of the parliament and also announced their replacement. The new appointments, which took immediate effect, were contained in a press release signed by Chairman of the commission, Amshi, at the end of an emergency meeting.
According to the new appointments, which he said were in line with Section 6(b) of the National Assembly Act 2014 (as amended), Ojo Amos Olatunde replaced Sani-Omolori as Acting Clerk of the National Assembly, while Dauda Ibrahim El-Ladan replaced Nelson Oyewoh, as Acting Clerk, Senate. Patrick A. Giwa remained Clerk, House of Representatives, pending his retirement in November.
Other appointees included Bala Yabani Mohammed, Acting Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly, and Yusuf Asir Danbatta, Acting Secretary to the NASC.
The two-page release read in part, ‘’The National Assembly Service Commission at an emergency meeting held today, Friday, 17th July, 2020 has approved the appointments of some senior Management staff for the Service.
“Pursuant to its mandate as provided in the National Assembly Service Act 2014 (as Amended). Section 6(b) which states ‘appoint persons to hold or act in the Offices of: Clerk to the National Assembly, the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly, Clerk of the Senate, Clerk of the House of Representatives; Deputy Clerk of the Senate, Deputy Clerk of House of Representatives, Secretaries to Directorates; and Holders of other offices that shall be created by the Commission on the recommendation of the Clerk to the National Assembly.’”
Other top management staff numbering over 150, including directors, secretaries, and deputy directors, who had attained 60 years of age or put in 35 years of service, were also affected by the retirement.