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Uproar as protesting NASS workers bar lawmakers from chambers

…Demand Omolori’s resignation over unpaid salaries, allowances
…Clerk blames non- implementation of Budget
…Saraki promises interface with NASS management
Staff of the National Assembly under the internal umbrella of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) on Tuesday denied 109 senators and 360 members of House of Representatives access to their hallowed chambers as the protesting workers blocked entrances of both chambers while others continuously chanted war songs around the lobby of the White House building.

The protesting staff ventilated their anger over several issues bothering on their salaries, allowances, promotion and other condition of service.

They also requested that PASAN members be put on the Consolidated Legislative Salary Structure (CONLESS).

They demanded an overhaul of the management of the National Assembly while specifically called for an immediate resignation of the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Mohammed Sani- Omolori.

Armed with placards convening their messages, the workers said majority of the staff live on bank loans which has been weighing them down.

Some inscriptions on the placards read “PASAN is the landlord while legislators are visitors who come every four years”, “Our patience has expired”, “Release our promotion letters”,

“We live on loans and meagre salaries after loan deductions, “Bank loans are killing us”, “Probe NASS Management now”, “All we want is alert”, “Constitute a new National Assembly Commission now”, and “Ten years of salary robbery”.

The association said their actions is expedient following the nonchalant attitude of the leadership of the National Assembly to their demands.

But the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Omolori has appealed to the striking staff to be a bit patient with the system.

He said that the presiding officers acceded without hesitation to their requests for this increment, adding that it was bargained with them and they captured it in the budget.

He said: “Now is it in their (lawmakers) powers, if the money is not released? And in any case, the reality on the ground is that it is not only the National Assembly that is suffering from non-release of funds. That is the reality of the Nigerian situation. So, I think we all have to be patient.

“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 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, which 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.

“We told them it is wrong and we tried to prevail on them to try to see through things in the correct way. As a matter of fact, I wrote a letter to them and I also had series of formal and informal consultations with their leadership up till yesterday (Monday) to make them back out of what is clearly an act that is not in tune with their own rules.”

Omolori had in a letter dated December 3, 2018 written to PASAN expressed concern that despite efforts by the management to address issues raised by them, they still insisted to embark on the planned strike.

On the payment of 28 per cent increase in CONLESS, one of the request by the union, he said a committee made up of management and PASAN had been set up to study, review and advice on the way forward.

He said although the payment was captured in 2018 budget, but the level of implementation in terms of release of funds had made it impossible to pay additional 28 per cent.

“This situation has been well discussed, and I am aware that PASAN officials have investigated and verified this fact from the Federal Ministry of Finance”, he said.

On the non-release of some promotion letters, upgrading, conversion and other establishment matters, he said of the 589 letters of promotion, conversion and upgrading, 562 had been released to beneficiaries.

The 27 pending ones have issues of promotion into non-existent vacancies, conversion of staff to other cadres in breach of extant guidelines approved by National Assembly Service Commission (NASC).

“Also, there are wrong effective dates of promotion and/or conversion, suspicious career progression records and questions concerning consultancy cadre,” he said.

He expressed concern that PASAN had not exhausted all options before embarking on the strike.

Finally addressing the protesters on Tuesday, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, assured them that their salaries would be paid.

But when he declared his intention to meet with the management of the National Assembly alongside with Yakubu Dogora, Speaker, House of Representatives on before Friday, the workers chorused ‘No’, demanding that such meeting should take place instantly.

However, they took Saraki for his words and reminded him that they need to hear from him soonest.

Leaders of both chambers of the National Assembly, Senator Ahmed Lawan and Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila had earlier addressed the protesters assuring them of quick Intervention of legislators in the pending issues.

Meanwhile, in a statement in Abuja, Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to the President of the Senate, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, have directed the National Assembly Management Committee headed by the Clerk, Alhaji Sani Omolori, to resolve all issues raised by protesting members of staff and report back to them by Friday.

“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’s Management.

They added that the constitution of the National Assembly Service Commission which the workers demanded will be made before Friday.

“The workers demanded for 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.

However, Dr. Saraki and Rt. Hon. Dogara, as well as their colleagues also reassured the workers that they will personally supervise how the management will eventually resolve the issues and ensure that the workers are not shortchanged”, Olaniyonu stated.

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