NASS Clerk: As Omolori enters the fray

Group Politics Editor, TAIWO ADISA, who has followed the controversy surrounding the appointment of the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), highlights the tasks ahead of the new Clerk.

The saga thrown up around the appointment of the Clerk to the National Assembly in 2016 beats the imagination of many Assembly watchers. Yes,there have been issues in the past, the last being the crisis that erupted in 2008/2009, pitching then Clerk, Nasiru Arab, against his Deputy, Mr Oluyemi Ogunyomi. But that as nowhere near the eruptions witnessed in 2016.

In the Arab/Ogunyomi saga, the issue had to do with alleged record irregularities which would have denied Ogunyomi his tenure as Clerk but the matter was eventually resolved when Arab proceeded on his terminal leave, yielding the ground to Ogunyomi.

This time around, the whole ground of the National Assembly vibrated as the battle ensued on who would take charge of NASS bureaucracy after Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa. There was the case of Mr Ben Efeturi, the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly, (DCNA) who, at the time, was seen as the number two in the hierarchy. He was believed to be standing in the gap between Omolori and the top job and the battle was intense ahead of May 14, when Maikasuwa was to proceed on terminal leave.  Omolori, at the time, was the Clerk to the House ofRepresentatives. To be or not to be? That was the question on the lips of many in the National Assembly.  The Assembly was divided along the line as the political set up and the bureaucratic setting clashed for the first time on such an issue.

When the Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Senator Isa Galaudu wrote a letter dated April 26 to reject a letter by the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) dated April 20 and which named Omolori as Acting Clerk to the National Assembly, the already tensed atmosphere became charged.  Commissioners of the NASC also got divided along the line and it appeared a back and forth had been setup. The Assembly leadership was about to be thrown into a quandary when the NASC again intervened by clarifying its decision to name Omolori. The Commission insisted that for the sake stability and continuity, the then Clerk of the House of Representatives had tobe appointed. This, it said, was because Efeturi was due to proceed onhis terminal leave even before Maikasuwa finally leaves the system onAugust 14.

On May13, Maikasuwa handed over to Omolori to douse the tension. In acircular issued on May 12, the outgone CNA, Maikasuwa specifically stated that Omolori, who was earlier appointed Acting Clerk by the Alhaji Adamu Fika led NASC would act in his absence. Maikasuwa in the circular titled: “Commencement of Terminal Leave”said: “During my absence, the Acting Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Mohammed A.  Sani-Omolori will perform my duties, please.”He copied the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; Deputy Senate President,Deputy Speaker; Senate Leader; House Leader; the Executive Chairman of NASC; the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly and others.

Omolori who holds a Bachelor of Law degree from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) joined the services of the National Assembly in July 1992 as a Legislative Counsel before rising to his current position as Clerk of the House of Representatives and latest appointment as

The Executive Chairman of the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC), Dr Adamu Fika, had in a letter dated 20th April 2016, appointed Omolori as Acting Clerk to the National Assembly from May 14th 2016 tom August 14th 2016, the period in which the outgoing  Clerk , Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa would observe his pre- retirement leave.

However,  Saraki through a letter signed by his Chief of Staff, Senator Isa Galaudu and dated April 21st 2016, kicked against Omolori’s appointment against the incumbent Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly (DCNA), Mr Ben Efeturi. Saraki in the letter, directed Adamu Fika to withdraw Omolori’s appointment letter forthwith and issue a fresh one for Efeturi on the grounds of seniority, which was however not complied with by Fika who, in another letter to Saraki dated April 26th 2016, explained the circumstances that led to Omolori’s appointment as against Efeturi.

This however got the board of the commission polarised into two,different factions of six federal commissioners each, supporting or antagonising Omolori or Efeturi for the position with attendant tension in the air. Eventually, Saraki, the head of the political wing of the Nationa Assembly and the NASC resolved the differences and agreed to the choice of Omolori.

The commission in a letter dated April 26 and addressed to Saraki byits chairman, Fika clarified the position of NASC to appoint Omolori, insisting that the processes of appointment of Efeturi and Omolori clearly showed that the latter was senior in terms of promotion and appointment.

The letter contained a chart which showed that while Efeturi was appointed Deputy Director on January 1, 2004, Omolori, was appointed to the same position on January 1, 2003. Omolori also proceeded to become Director on January 1, 2007 ahead of Efeturi, who was named Director on January 1, 2008. The chart also showed that Efeturi was named Acting Clerk on February 4, 2010, while Omolori was named Acting Clerk the same day. The duo was also named substantive Clerk on March 25, 2010. The commission insisted that records at its disposal indicated that Omolori was senior to Efeturi by career progression.

The clarification from NASC chairman also indicated that the decision to appoint Sani-Omolori as Acting Clerk to the National Assembly was taken at the Commission’s 440th meeting held on the April 20, 2016.

The letter stated that the decision was taken because Mr Benedict Efeturi, who is DCNA, is set to proceed on pre-retirement leave from August 2, 12 days before the outgone Clerk, Salisu Maikasuwa will be due to hand over to a successor on August 13.

The letter by Fika added that Efeturi could not be considered because he was “time barred,” hence the decision to name Sani-Omolori to act as CNA and ensure continuity in the system. The letter read in part: “In arriving at the Commission’s decision,the Chairman did not use his casting vote, because eleven Commissioners were in support with only one who voted no.

Last week, the NASC officially recognised Omolori as the substantive CNA, following the retirement of Maikasuwa on August 14. The Kogi-born technocrat has therefore stepped into office as the new head of

Nigeria’s legislative bureaucracy. He immediately kick-started meetings with the different segments of the legislature including the staff so as to get a first-hand feel of the challenges at hand.

Snippets of his discussions with members of staff at his maiden meeting with members of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) indicated that Omolori promised to allow the staff freedom of speech, where many of the workers condemned the disposition of some directors to shortchange them.

He also promised to put in place functional and durable structures by consolidating on the achievements of the past and ensure a smooth relationship with the management, the staff and the political wing of the legislature.

The new Clerk promised to kick start another reign of “Glorious NASS”through constant dialogue with stakeholders , while ensuring promotion of  the core values of legislative agenda. He also promised to revolutionalise the ICT department to ensure that the legislature is up to date in the global legislative village.  He was also said to have assured the workers of his determination to ensure discipline, hardwork and accountability, while ensuring that those who observe the core values are rewarded and punishment for those who fall by the way.

No doubt, the new Clerk has some daunting tasks ahead of him. He is inheriting a NASS, whose bureaucracy is almost disoriented with clearly undefined work codes and ethics.  The legislature has been unable to perform its core duties to the people and Nigerian researchers as a result of the lack of a functional library and the failure to establish a proper Budget office. Thus far, the National Assembly Budget and Research office (NABRO) is operating without legal backing and that makes it an ad-hoc arrangement at best. Incidentally that is one institution that can help resolve the perennial NASS versus executive crisis over budget issues.

“The new Clerk has some daunting tasks ahead of him. He is inheriting a NASS, whose bureaucracy is almost disoriented with clearly undefined work codes and ethics.”