The House of Representatives yesterday intervened as National Assembly legislative aides disrupted the scheduled reconvening of federal lawmakers after a 19-day Easter recess with a massive protest over unpaid seven months’ salaries, non-implementation of minimum wage and unpaid duty tour allowance, among others.
The industrial crisis may worsen today as the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) of both the National Assembly and National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) chapters have vowed to go on strike from today if the management fails to meet their demands.
These demands include the implementation of the minimum wage/consequential adjustment and the financial provisions in their conditions of service.
However, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has described as unjustifiable the National Assembly management’s failure to pay the legislative aides wages from June to December 2019.
The aides who stormed the National Assembly carrying placards with various inscriptions like ‘Pay Us Our Wages’, CNA, Pay Us Our 2019 Salary,’ ‘NASS Management, A Worker Deserves His Pay,’ accused the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Mr. Olatunde Ojo, of failing to pay their salary arrears, implement the Consolidated Legislative Salary Structure (CONLESS), minimum wage, non-payment of Duty Tour Allowances (DTA) and lack of training and conditions of service for the aides.
The aggrieved protesters, on sighting Gbajabiamila, who was on his way to the chamber started chanting solidarity songs.
Gbajabiamila stopped and demanded to hear out the leaders of the protesting aides.
Speaking on behalf of others, Mr. Zebis Prince, who represents the South-South geo-political zone of the group told the speaker that the aides wanted the CNA to meet all their demands.
The demands were thereafter presented to Gbajabiamila by the Chairman, National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum (NASSLAF), Mr. Salisu Zuru.
The speaker, after receiving the letter of demand, said it was inexcusable not to pay workers arrears dating back to 2019 and pleaded with the workers to be patient while the National Assembly leadership looks into it.
”I believe that every labourer should be paid his wages. We are looking into it. While these things can be protracted, not paying wages for 2019 is inexcusable. We will look into it. I will just ask that you be patient. We plead for your understanding. We know there are financial constraints, but one thing I know is this will be resolved amicably and your arrears will be paid. We appreciate you for bringing these demands to our attention and we will attend to it accordingly,” he stated.
Addressing journalists shortly after, the Chairman National Assembly Legislative Aides, Mr. Stanley Ugwu, said their grievances accused the management of the National Assembly of denying them certain privileges and rights of the legislative aides.
He said: ”We engaged them on administrative processes up till a point of getting a resolution to investigate the non-payment of the 2019 salary arrears, which the House of Representatives set up a committee, they sat and conducted their activities and the report was laid and adopted by the House.
“Since the report has been accepted at the plenary, the management has not deemed it fit to make the payments. The quarterly training for the aides has not been done as well and if aides are not trained, the quality of the legislation you will have here will be low.”
Also, one of the aides, Mr. Lawson Oviashave, told THISDAY that the aides had wanted the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, to address them, adding that if he failed to show up, they would disperse and continue the protest today.
He said: ”If Lawan doesn’t come, we will peacefully disperse. Tomorrow we will come back here; we are going to keep on coming here every day until our demands are met. We can’t be blackmailed; they have the impression that aides are a bunch of irresponsible people but we are going to prove them wrong.
“We will let the world know the conditions under which we are working. It’s a continuous process until we get an alert of our arrears.”
The protesters had before embarking on the protest, issued a statement on Monday, saying that since the inauguration of the Ninth Assembly, salary arrears of some legislative aides had been withheld by the management.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary workers (PASAN) have vowed to embark on strike today if the management of National Assembly fails to meet their demands.
The union, in a joint communiqué signed by Sunday Sabiyyi (Chairman, National Assembly chapter) and Oisamaye Ojemeri (Chairman, NASC chapter) yesterday at the end of its congress in Abuja asked the management of the National Assembly to implement the minimum wage/consequential adjustment and the financial provisions in their conditions of service.
The association also rejected the proposal of the management of National Assembly on the implementation of part of their demands.
But speaking yesterday during plenary, Gbajabiamila appealed to the workers to exercise some patience, assuring them that the issue would be resolved soon.
He said: ”I will like to appeal to the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) who is protesting to exercise some patience, their matter is being looked into and the issues will be resolved very soon.”