Reps move to extend retirement age of Legislative Staff

• move to exclude NASS from Federal Public Service • Political Science Expert warns against creation of parallel conditions of service, litigation

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed through Second Reading a Bill which seeks to increase the retirement age for Staff of Legislative Houses across Nigeria and for related matters from 35 to 40 years and 60 to 65 years of age.

The ‘Harmonised Retirement Age for Staff of Legislative Houses in Nigeria Bill, 2021, sponsored by Majority Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Monguno was passed and referred to the Committee of the Whole for consideration, without a public hearing.

While venting his personal opinion on the development, a Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Professor Abubakar Suleiman, who expressed reservation on the subject matter, however, called for restraints that may create a parallel condition of service in the public service of the federation.

Professor Suleiman who doubles as a former Minister of National Planning, said: “This is one area I don’t want to dabble into because it amounts to prejudice when I want to talk on an issue that is before our lawmakers so to speak.

“But I think what government is trying to do, especially the leadership of National Assembly is not to create a parallel bureaucracy in the country.

“This country is one country under one President, under one Executive, under one Legislature, by the time you have the divergent condition of service, especially when it comes to mainstream bureaucracy, you may likely create friction whereby you have Head of Service of the country and someone will claim to be Head of Service in National Assembly again, and before we know it, it becomes a matter of litigation here and there and we will not know where to start.

“But I think the privilege of the specialized scheme of service is only given to those in academia and perhaps the Judiciary because of their specialized nature. Because those in academia, are knowledge-based people; knowledge cannot be bequeathed or substituted at any given time.

“When they are gone, they are gone, a Professor cannot replace his child. As a Professor’s child, you have to claim it; you have to get to that stage. And the same thing applies to the Judiciary.

“For us to extend this to the bureaucracy in the National Assembly, I think it’s a thing we need to look into very well. I don’t really see many spectacular services rendered at that level that those in the mainstream civil service cannot render.

“So I want us to be very careful, just like I said, I wouldn’t want to make a submission, this is just Suleiman’s opinion, I’m not speaking for National Assembly, I’m not speaking for NILDS; I’m just speaking as Suleiman, a Nigerian about my knowledge about the public service. I believe the status quo should be maintained for now,” he urged.

Clause 1 of the bill provides that the new retirement age “shall apply throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” and by extension to the legislative staff at both the National Assembly and 36 State Houses of Assembly.

Clause 2 of the bill also provides that: “Staff of Legislative Houses in Nigeria shall compulsorily retire on the attainment of 65 years of age or 40 years of pensionable service, whichever is earlier.”

Clause 3 however stipulates that: “Any law or the Public Service Rules requiring a person to retire from the Public Service at 60 years of age or after 35 years of service shall not apply to Staff of Legislative Houses in Nigeria,” as provided for in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

According to the Explanatory Memorandum of the bill, the proposed legislation seeks to make provisions for the compulsory retirement age and years of service of Staff of Legislative Houses in Nigeria.

Recall that Chairman of National Assembly Service Commission (NASC), Engr. Ahmed Amshi had in the wake of the controversy trailing the purported plan by the erstwhile Clerk for the National Assembly (CNA), Sani Omolori to unilaterally enforce a new condition of Service, directed that status quo on the 35 years and 60 years of age whichever comes first should be maintained.

According to the memo dated July 15, 2020, titled: ‘The National Assembly Service Commission approves the retirement age for the staff of the National Assembly Service as 35 years of service and 60 years of age whichever comes first.”

In 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, July 15, 2020, 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.

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