The visual optics could not have been more graphic and evocative: the image of some misguided aides protesting in the National Assembly to the untutored eyes conveyed in the visual dimension, the image of an oppressive and shrewd NASS management determined to deny payment of salaries/emoluments of some deserving workers and aides of the National Assembly.
This well choreographed deception had all the trappings of a contrived faux pas manufactured and incubated in the fecund imagination of manipulators courting public sympathy in the bid to rail road management to succumb to their inordinate demands to wit the payment of unearned salaries and emoluments.
In a system in the grip of media trials where perception is everything, the undiscerning section of the citizenry may well be duped into believing this deception and heap blame on the management of National Assembly. Mercifully, the leadership of National Assembly is unwavering and has taken a principled stand in the face of this vicious assault on due process, probity and accountability. In the face of these swirling allegations against the management, it has become imperative and inevitable to interrogate the issues in matter in order to ascertain the veracity of the allegations and hopefully, throw a penetrating shaft of light into the entire saga and bring closure to it.
What are indeed the issues? Some aides and workers in the offices of the Deputy Senate President and the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives are grumbling over alleged refusal by management of the National Assembly to pay them their entitlement fully since the inauguration of the 9th.National Assembly. Interestingly, aides and workers in the offices of the Senate President and the Speaker, House of Representatives are not involved in this agitation.
So, something is fundamentally wrong with this campaign. As has become self evident, this agitation is fundamentally flawed precisely because it is predicated on ignorance and lack of understanding of civil service rules by those who are unnecessarily overheating the system.
The point to be made crystal clear is that employment position(s) be it pensionable or on contract is determined by conditions of service as spelt out in the appointment letter which the employee is at liberty to accept or reject. Once he accepts it, he is bound by the terms and conditions contained therein. Given this reality, no one no matter how highly placed in the management hierarchy will approve any payments outside the conditions of service contained in the letter of appointment.
To do so would be in breach and contravention of laid down procedure, rules and guidelines governing the civil service. The protesting workers are fully aware of their terms of engagement and are basically out to practice mischief. As against their claims, it is not true that they resumed work at the same with the lawmakers immediately after their inauguration.
Their appointments took some time in coming as management was working round the clock to set up the offices of these lawmakers for them to settle down for legislative business. Also, there was no ambiguity or ambivalence in the appointment letters of these aides regarding the date and take off point of their work. It is inconceivable that management will act in contempt and negation of the terms/conditions of employment it had hitherto conveyed to the workers. To do so would be in breach of civil service rules and guidelines.
There is a tinge of blackmail driven by bazaar mentality in this agitation. In spite of this bazaar mentality and the unbridled sense of entitlement, the truth is that the era of free money is gone for good in the National Assembly especially under the present management.
Under the leadership and guidance of Ataba Sani-Omolori as Clerk to the National Assembly, probity and accountability has taken firm root and there is a high degree of certainty that this desperate plot to pressure management to act against due process and the guidelines is a non starter and therefore dead on arrival.
Upon the inauguration of the 9th session of the National Assembly and the launch of the legislative schedules otherwise known as the Legislative Agenda ,the management of the Assembly led by Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori re-enegized and refocused to work for the Nigerian people. It should also be stated that since his appointment as the Clerk to the National Assembly, he has recorded some landmark achievements.
Under his guidance and leadership, the National Assembly has witnessed steady transformation through massive renovation of facilities, security and above all technological proficiency for greater effective service delivery. The introduction of Click-in-tech and the introduction of Open Week provided the platform for i Nigerians, CBOs, CSOs to interface with lawmakers and the management of the National Assembly His trailblazing efforts also saw Omolori inaugurate a committee on Personnel Audit in 2016 with a clear mandate to ascertain the actual staff strength, structure and distribution of staff required for putting in place an ideal legislative management system.
As an astute administrator, the Clerk to the National Assembly will not succumb to the theatrics of a few misguided staff with clearly misplaced priorities and a muddled road map on how to achieve them.
The present agitation is driven by mob mentality which is not only insufferable but counterproductive. It seeks to attract public opprobrium to the present management of the National Assembly and force it to acquiesce to their inordinate demands.
The mob has never achieved any meaningful objective; they leave in their wake a trail of destruction. Instead of playing to the gallery, these workers should explore internal mechanism within the system if they are still in doubt. This show of shame must stop.
Kevin Oji, a veteran journalist, author and commentator on national issues contributed this piece from Abuja.