NASS: The case of Omolori and others

LAST week, the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) and the management of the National Assembly, Mr Mohammed Sani-Omolori, clashed over the issue of tenure of office. The altercation came on the heels of the directive by the executive chairman of the NASC, Mr Ahmed Amshi, compulsorily retiring members of staff of the commission who had reached the age of 60 or put in 35 years of service, whichever came first. But the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr Mohammed Sani-Omolori, and the other 160 affected staff refused to budge, citing the provisions of the new amendment to the conditions of service of National Assembly staff. The provisions allow them to remain in office until they turn 65 or attain 40 years in service.

In dispensing with the amendment by the two chambers of the National Assembly in 2018, the Amshi-led commission said: “Pursuant to its mandate as provided in the National Assembly Service Act 2014 (as amended), the National Assembly Service Commission at its 497th meeting held on Wednesday 15th July 2020 has approved the retirement age of the staff of the National Assembly Service as 35 years of service or 60 years of age whichever comes first. To this effect, the commission has approved the immediate retirement of staff of the National Assembly Service who have already attained the retirement age of 35 years of service or 60 years of age. Retirement letters would be issued to the affected staff accordingly.”

The disengaged Clerk promptly returned fire. In a statement issued in response to the NASC declaration, he said: “The attention of the National Assembly management has been drawn to a press release dated 15th July, 2020 signed by the chairman of the National Assembly Service Commission, informing the general public that the commission had approved the retirement age of staff of the National Assembly as 35 years of service or 60 years of age, whichever came first. The management of the National Assembly wishes to inform all staff and the general public that the extant regulation as contained in our Revised Conditions of Service duly passed by both Chambers of the 8th National Assembly puts the retirement age of staff at 40 years of service and 65 years of age, whichever comes first. The Resolution of the 8th National Assembly on the Conditions of Service of Staff has not been rescinded nor abdicated by the National Assembly, which under the authentic National Assembly Service Act 2014 as passed is empowered to review any proposed amendment to the Conditions of Service by the Commission.”

Against this backdrop, Omolori declared that the NASC did not have the powers to set aside the Revised Conditions of Service passed by the 8th National Assembly. Following this move, Amshi issued Omolori a query and appointed a new clerk, OlatundeOjo, in acting capacity. He equally made other appointments: Bala Mohammed as Acting Deputy Clerk, National Assembly; Dauda el-Ladan as Acting Clerk, Senate; Patrick Giwa to remain Clerk, House of Representatives, pending his retirement in November 2020; Yusuf Danbatta, Acting Secretary to the NASC.

To be sure, there had been grumbling among federal civil servantssince the amendment effected by the Eighth National Assembly. The dissatisfied civil servants wondered why their colleagues in the National Assembly should enjoy special privileges, since the retirement date for federal civil servants is 60 years, or upon attaining 35 years in service.There is, we believe, merit in the claim that rules ought to apply across board in the federal civil service. This is because, among other potentially deleterious effects, having separate rules for National Assembly staff and their colleagues elsewhere will readily breach animosity, as evident in the present case, and occasion undue interest in serving at the National Assembly since the conditions available there would be considered special. However, regardless of the merits or otherwise of the amendment by the Eighth National Assembly, it remains the law unless and until set aside by the court of law. The NASC, regardless of its public posturing, cannot wish away an amendment undertaken by the National Assembly. It cannot overrule the National Assembly or declare its action unconstitutional.

We urge the affected parties to approach the court of law for a resolution of the issue. This is the only way it can be laid to rest.

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