Unpaid allowances: Ninth Assembly aides threaten protest

Legislative aides in the National Assembly have said they will begin a peaceful protest within the premises of the National Assembly from December 16, urging the National Assembly management to avert the planned protest by responding appropriately their demands for salary arrears.

Tribune Online sighted a copy of the letter to the Clerk of the National Assembly dated December 13, 2020 in which the group is demanding immediate payment of their 2019 salaries and allowances.

Signatories to the correspondence verified by the Tribune Online are Tony Omali for North Central, Zebis Kekung, South South and Chinedu Nwokeukwu.

The letter signed by six representatives of the group by their regional representation reads in part: “On the strength of the above, we are by this letter issuing a 48 hours’ notice of our intention to commence on series of actions to drive home our demands for the payment of our 2019 salary arrears. 

“Starting from Wednesday, 16th of December, 2020 we shall among other steps invoke section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to embark on peaceful gathering around the precincts of the National Assembly Complex. 

“This shall be followed with unrelenting social media campaign and petitions to relevant authorities to alert them to our situation. The legal option is our last resort. The only action that can stop these chains of events is the payment of our arrears within the timeline of this notice. We shall no longer take any verbal assurance from anyone.

“While we are hopeful that the management will take full advantage of the two days window and render our actions unnecessary, let me assure you sir that we have the resolve and capabilities to sustain this campaign for as long as it is necessary till our demands are met.

The letter, entitled: “Continued Refusal to Pay Ninth Assembly Aides Salary Arrears” said the legislative aides “counting on your swift action on these important issues.”

The letter jointly signed by the six representatives of the 9th Assembly legislative aides, further reads: “We write on behalf of all Legislative Aides being owed salaries arrears from June 12th to December 31st, 2019. This distinction is important to draw a parallel between the long-drawn salaries arrears commencing from date of inauguration and the ongoing ones which are occasioned by bureaucratic process. We write with regards to the former which affects over 50 per cent of Legislative Aides.

“Sir, you will recall that upon assumption of office, you appeared before the Honourable Raji-led House Service Committee on Legislative Aides Welfare where you pleaded for time to settle down before the salary arrears are paid.

“The Committee was a child of several letters and petitions written to relevant authorities by Legislative Aides to condemn the dictatorial, whimsical and ill-thought directive by the immediate past CNA to shortchange Legislative Aides of their earned salaries as has been the norm from time immemorial. Some of the signatories to this letter were in the hall when you promised to pay the arrears ‘within two months’. That commitment to the lawmakers was made in August, 2020. 

“Upon the inauguration of the Zuru-led National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum (NASSLAF) Executive Committee, they paid you a courtesy visit wherein they reported back that you gave a firm assurance that the vexed issue of the 2019 arrears would be settled once and for all ‘on or before 21st of December, 2020’.

“Despite our misgivings concerning the date and breach of your previous words to the House Committee, we gave the management the benefits of doubt. Our optimism was largely borne out of the belief that with your emergence, we were out of the woods and the worst was behind us. We envisioned a regime where all stakeholders are treated equally and with proportionate dignity befitting workers in a federal legislature. 

“It was therefore a rude shock when we learnt that the management has no plans to pay the 2019 salary arrears of Legislative Aides that has long been settled even before you came onboard. For us as Legislative Aides, the issue of the arrears was a matter of when and not if as all arguments have been canvassed and resolution reached before you mounted the saddle. 

“Surely, as the Head of Management and Chief Accounting Officer of the National Assembly, you must be privy to the position of the Chairman of the Commission, the Senate President and the Speaker on this issue. 

“Your reluctance to implement and comply with the directives of these authorities is an enforcement of the last regime and fuels the suspicion that perhaps nothing has changed. The honeymoon came too soon.

“Sir, having regard to our recent unpleasant experience as Legislative Aides, we have learnt our lessons the hard way. 

“In as much as we are disappointed at your failure to keep even to your own words, we have decided not to resign to lamentations but to take all legitimate steps to drive home our demands for the payment of our salary arrears that has dragged on for over a year. 

“We are now convinced more than before that apart from being an admission of the validity of our claims, the payment of few of our colleagues last year was a red-herring aimed at buying time and also dividing our ranks. We totally disagree with this discriminatory, inconsistent and vindictive approach to public service delivery. 

“We believe that the undue and inexplicable delay in paying us our arrears was designed to arrive at a predetermined end. We will legitimately resist any attempt to further impoverish us,” the legislative aides said.

The group said they are demanding for payment that has been released into the account of the National Assembly for onward disbursement to each aide and wonder why only 59 per cent has been paid while others are left unattended while the money is in the coffers of the National Assembly.

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