Rediscovering the core values of legislative aides

On December 19, 2019, an online medium carried a disturbing news story concerning legislative aides in the National Assembly, saying that they were protesting the non-payment of salaries’. In the said publication, it was revealed that some legislative aides of federal lawmakers staged a peaceful protest to demand unpaid allowances. That development was indeed one of the lowest moments concerning the wellbeing of legislative aides in the nation’s highest legislative making body. It was disturbing and sad to know that statutory funds had been provided for the protesting legislative aides, yet they could not access it at that point in time. Some suggested that what could only have led to that unpalatable scenario in December, 2019 was simply insensitivity to the plight of legislative aides within the National Assembly. However, during the inauguration of newly elected executive members of the 9th National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum (NASSLAF) on October 23, the Clerk to the National Assembly, Amos Ojo, said he was resolved to make sure that all statutory claims of legislative aides were promptly paid, and training programmes  pursued to logical conclusion. The good news today is that the ugly situation mentioned above has changed for the better under a proactive leadership of which has only spent less than four months in the saddle.

The ‘First 28 Days’ statutory allowance for newly appointed legislative aides has been paid, and those concerned are not only happy, and has turned out to be a moral booster. The CNA has even made it abundantly clear that training programmes and all statutory obligations from the current management would be placed on the front burner of priorities. He is poised to make things work in the National Assembly; to set a new standard of work ethics, to bring a new dawn and mission to bear positively in the bureaucratic affairs of the National Assembly. Courtesy demands that all sectors and sections of the bureaucratic system should brace up to accommodate the new progressive agenda. To rediscover the core values of legislative aides in the National Assembly, it is imperative for the ‘9th Legislative Aides in the National Assembly to live up to expectations; it should never be business as usual.

As the saying goes: to whom much is given, much is expected.  According to the CNA: “Unarguably, the NASS Legislative Aides Forum is a platform that acts as a lubricant to the engine of performance for legislators. Therefore, l want to passionately appeal to the new executive body being inaugurated and the rank and file members to always allow absolute professionalism and decorum to guide your duties and conducts.” Flowing from the progressive perspective, legislative aides should be ‘legislative aides’ in word and deed. They must live up to the global best practices.  Legislative aides are not supposed to be ‘errand boys’ chasing domestic duties. We are talking of serious legislative business here; creativity and intellectual prowess should come into play, as practised in civilised parliamentary climes.

Senators and members of the House of Representatives are entitled to five aides each. These aides must be able to think far ahead of their principals like ‘brain boxes’; they should be able to draft bills or motions in order to boost the overall performance of parliamentarians, to ultimately fulfil mandates of the electorates; that is matching realities of the constituencies across the country. For the sake of playing critical roles, the selection process of legislative aides needs to be reviewed without delay, to give room for competent professional hands, not just a job for the ‘political settlement of the boys’ to satisfy parochial whims and caprices of some party chieftains. We need to avoid a repeat of the ugly scenario witnessed recently in the National Assembly, where a legislative aide was caught breaking into the office of a lawmaker. It is interesting to note that as part of his numerous duties, the CNA is more like a guardian to the legislators, because he is the one that approves the appointments of legislative aides nominated by the members of the legislature via the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC). Hewants the best from the present crop of legislative aides, so that at the end of the day, the Nigerian people who are the chief custodians of sovereignty will be better for it. This is in terms of even distribution of democratic dividends in the course of the present 9th National Assembly. The leadership  and members of the National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum should desist from any act or process that will jeopardise the wonderful agenda.

This is important given the unnecessary and distractive legal tussle being waged within the union. Legislative aides should see themselves first and foremost as ‘aides’, before they became union members; internal mechanism of dispute resolution should always be exploited to the fullest. It is urgently expected that the warring unionists should sheathe their swords. They should enable the management and stakeholders to wade into issues. With the CNA’s readiness to provide the necessary working and welfare tools, and with the conducive environment, the hands of all legislative aides must be on deck to enable the present crops of legislators to achieve their constitutional mandates to the electorate in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This should be possible given that there is a leadership that focuses its thoughts and efforts in finding practical and scientific solutions to issues, responding proactively to challenges with new methods and new approaches.

  • Austen is Special Adviser (Media/Labour) to the Clerk of the National Assembly.

 

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