Confusion as workers shut down National Assembly …turn back lawmakers, say ‘no alert, no plenary’
Workers at the National Assembly, under the auspices of the Parliamentary Support Association of Nigeria, on Tuesday crippled activities at the chambers.
Members of PASAN picketed the Senate and House of Representatives, turning back lawmakers who came for plenary.
The workers protested over the non-implementation of a new Consolidated Salary Structure, delayed promotions and unpaid allowances.
They occupied the central lobby adjoining the Senate and House of Representatives wings of the National Assembly complex.
The protesting workers carried placards with various inscriptions and sang protest songs at the entrances to the chambers.
Some of the placards read, ‘Omolori must go,’ ‘CONLESS has been approved since 2010,’ ‘Say no to consultancy,’ ‘Executive, fund National Assembly now,’ ‘Promotion is our right,’ ‘We need alert,’ ‘Release our promotion letters now,’ ‘Contract inflation is a crime.’
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who ran into the protesters on his way to the chamber, failed in his effort to address the protesters. The protesters refused to listen to him and he left.
Lawmakers, who walked in through main entrances at the White House, where the chambers are located, were forced to turn back, as the protesters approached them menacingly.
Security operatives, including men of the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, watched as the protesters sang and danced to their protest songs.
Some members of the Nigeria Labour Congress also stormed the National Assembly Complex and joined PASAN members in the protest.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, later led principal officers of the Senate and House to address the protesters.
The Senate President urged the workers to allow the lawmakers have a dialogue with their leaders, after which the resolutions would be made known.
While Saraki was speaking, the workers chorused “no” and chanted “no (bank credit) alert, no sitting.”
The lawmakers and leaders of PASAN went into a closed-door meeting immediately after.
Later, Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan; House Majority Leader, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila; and Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas, addressed journalists, where they appealed to the workers to suspend the action.
Lawan said, “The National Assembly, that is the leaderships of the Senate and the House of Representatives, had a meeting with the leadership of PASAN. For today, we have resolved with the leadership of PASAN to look into all the issues they have raised. All the issues they have raised are genuine and serious issues and they are of concern to us.
“As leaders of the National Assembly and indeed members of the National Assembly, we are interested in seeing and having our staff well trained and productive. Therefore, we identify with those issues raised by PASAN.
“Let me take some of the issues for comments. For CONLESS, the position that we have taken is to ensure that we look into the implementation of the 28 per cent as agreed in the last 10 years. This will be achieved through a tripartite meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly, PASAN and the management of the National Assembly led by the CNA.”
He added, “We have also agreed to immediately work in the two chambers to pass the Condition of Service for PASAN and our people who work here to have a better working environment and situation. This we have decided to start immediately from tomorrow, Wednesday. That will be in plenary session.
“Having said these, let me also say that we appeal to the leadership and followership of PASAN that it will be counterproductive to block the National Assembly chambers or stop plenary sessions from taking place, because most of these things we have agreed we will do, we can only achieve them if we are allowed to work and allow the environment for conducive interactions between the various stakeholders that are supposed to participate.
“It is our assumption that the leadership of PASAN will pass this information to its followership to allow the National Assembly chambers to operate from tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday.”
Earlier, the Chairman of PASAN, Mr Bature Musa, said the protest and picketing, which ended at 2pm as he earlier announced, was not caused by a face-off with the lawmakers.
Musa said, “The word ‘picketing’ does not prevent anybody from working, it is a message passed to the leadership of the National Assembly. And don’t forget, it is for a duration of between 9am and 2pm. Then, after that, everyone will return to work.
“We have not asked anybody not to go to their offices. What we had at the back of our minds when we set out was that when they come around, they will definitely find out what is happening because we have written to them almost eight months ago and nothing seems to be happening. You will agree with me that they are almost on their way out and this is the best time for us to cry out loud because the whole world will know why we are embarking on this peaceful demonstration.”
Earlier in his reaction, the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr Mohammed Sani-Omolori, who spoke to journalists, lamented that efforts made to pacify the workers and prevent the mass action failed.
Sani-Omolori said, “It is a matter that has been on for some time now and we have tried to explain to them. We approved salary increase for them, which was captured in the 2018 budget. But as it is today, it is a common knowledge that the level of implementation of the 2018 budget, especially the new addition to the National Assembly, has not been implemented – that is where we had hoped that the addition would be paid. So, to the extent that the money has not been released, there is no way we can make the payment.”
Meanwhile, Saraki and Dogara have given Sani-Omolori till Friday to resolve the labour crisis in the National Assembly.
A statement later issued by Saraki’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Yusuph Olaniyonu, said the leaders had directed the National Assembly Management Committee headed by the Clerk “to resolve all issues raised by protesting members of staff and report back to them by Friday.”
The statement quoted Saraki and Dogara as stating at their meeting with the National Assembly management and PASAN that it was important for the workers to be well motivated and their demands properly addressed in order to create a conducive atmosphere for the legislature to perform its duties.
It reads, “The leadership of the National Assembly made it clear to the staff that the issues raised by them were previously unknown to the legislators, and that even if they were known to the Senate President and the Speaker, the leadership could do little to address them because they fall under the purview of the NASS Management.
“They added that the constitution of the National Assembly Service Commission which the workers demanded will be made before Friday.
“The workers demanded the implementation of the CONLESS system in the payment of their salaries and allowances, approval of new condition of service for the workers, among other issues.
Responding to the issue of 28 per cent increment of the CONLESS, Sani-Omolori said he had set up a committee made up of representatives of the management and the association to study, review and advise on the way forward.
On the non-release of some promotion letters, upgrading, conversion and other establishment matters, Sani-Omolori stated that 562 out of 589 letters of promotion, conversion and upgrading sent by NASC had been released to the beneficiaries.
He said the 27 pending ones had issues of “promotion into non-existent vacancies, conversion of staff to other cadres in breach of extant guidelines approved by NASC, wrong effective dates of promotion and/or conversion, suspicious career progression records and questions concerning consultancy cadre.” Punch