Some legislative aides to members of the National Assembly are billed to file a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission today (Monday) over the alleged non-payment of the backlog of their salaries and allowances.
The PUNCH reliably learnt on Thursday that the aggrieved aides had already petitioned the leadership of the National Assembly and security agencies, and had now resolved to involve the anti-graft agencies.
The Clerk to the National Assembly, Amos Ojo, who spoke through his aide, Austin Adesoro, however, stated that the management was in talks with the leadership of the National Assembly Legislative Aides’ Forum, the umbrella body of the legislative aides, while dismissing the protesting aides as acting in ignorance.
According to documents sighted by our correspondent, those said to have been petitioned include the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Chairman, National Assembly Service Commission, Ahmed Amshi; Clerk to the National Assembly, Amos Ojo; Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Matthew Urhoghide; Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Oluwole Oke; and the Department of State Services.
A competent source in the NASSLAF, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorised to disclose the association’s plans, said the aides would petition the anti-graft agencies this week, adding, “They will submit the petition to the EFCC and the ICPC on Monday.”
Speaking with our correspondent, Adesoro stated that only N5bn had been released to the National Assembly out of the N25bn supplementary budget, adding that N2.3bn was used to settle issues relating to members of staff, while the aides got N2.7bn.
He said, “They are not the elected executive of the NASSLAF. The management is engaging the authentic executive of the NASSLAF. These are just a bunch of unserious and unreasonable aides, who have refused to accept the situation on the ground. If they are still interested in engaging in dialogue with the management, we will find a solution to the issue on the ground.
“As far as the issue of N25bn is concerned, it was for payment of the minimum wage and liabilities. Are they saying that the clerk should go against the law and pay the legislative aides the arrears? Out of the N25bn, only N5bn was released to the National Assembly; the other N20bn is still with the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
The petition addressed to the Director, DSS, National Assembly Division, dated February 7, 2022, is titled, ‘Continued refusal of the CNA/management to fulfil the terms of our understanding on the issue of salary arrears and minimum wages’.
It was signed by Zebis Prince for the South and Tony Omali for the North.
The petition read in part, “For the umpteenth time, we write to you to intimate you of our frustration with regards to the protracted issue of our salary arrears and non-payment of our minimum wages.
“Despite your kind intervention, and in spite of these sums being captured in the 2021 supplementary budget that was passed (by the National Assembly) and signed into law by the President on July 22, 2021, the Amos Ojo-led management has continued in its impunity of breaching all known financial regulations by deploying legislative aides’ funds to other uses.
“The CNA had by his own admission stated that N25bn was released under the Service Wide Votes but instead of paying legislative aides their salary arrears and minimum wage arrears, the CAN, with alarming consistency, continues to flout the appropriation law and the House resolution passed on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, wherein the House mandated the management to pay these outstanding liabilities since the money had been approved and appropriated.
“We are appalled by the discretionary manner in which the CNA runs the affairs of the National Assembly. The CNA runs the National Assembly in a Machiavellian, despotic and irrational manner like a 16th Century fief lord, subjecting a public institution to his whims and caprices.
“We have always frowned and complained about Amos Ojo’s penchant for discrimination and favouritism and lack of oversight control. If there was ever any doubt about our position regarding the CNA, this current insult on the aides has further reinforced our belief that this current CNA does not possess the qualities to hold a public office.”
The aides challenged the National Assembly management led by Ojo to “prove us wrong by opening the National Assembly accounts for scrutiny.”
The aides also said they had written to the CNA for the release of funds made to the National Assembly for 2021 acting under the Freedom of Information Act 2011, “but as usual, he rebuffed the official request.”
The petition added, “Flowing from the above, starting from next week, we shall take certain steps to bring our sorry plight to the attention of the world in the hope that they might be able to caution the ‘Emperor’. Some of these steps include but are not limited to media campaigns/interviews, submission of petitions to the EFCC and ICPC, and ultimately instituting a suit against the CNA and the National Assembly as an institution.
“We also intend to submit acknowledged copies of the petition to the Presidency and the Minister of Finance.