It must be for good measure that the leadership of the National Assembly has formally declared “thus far and no more”, for any person and or interest that dares its resolve.
Making this assertion before journalists at the State House after meeting with President Muhamadu Buhari last Wednesday, was the President of the Senate Ahmed Lawan while in the company of the Speaker House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila.
Citing the cordial relationship between the current Ninth National Assembly and the Presidency, Lawan warned that such should not be mistaken by any public officer to disrespect the legislative house, in any engagement with the latter.
According to him “if you are an appointee of the President, you are supposed to be reflective of the attitude of the President towards the National Assembly”, as the institution will take exception to any attitude or disposition that is not in support of the harmony in the relationship between the two arms of government.
Meanwhile acting in accord with the stand of the National Assembly leadership, Buhari also read the riot act to all apointees in his administration, directing them to show unreserved respect to the legislature.
This development brings to mind at least two factors.
Firstly is that it admits as a matter of fact that the National Assembly has been a victim of disrespect and mistreatment by officers in the other arms of government, with the most recent of such instances being the open confrontation as well as undisguised defiance by the Minister of State for Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo, and the Pofessor Kemebradikumo Pondei led Interim Management Board (IMC), of the NDDC.
In the first instance which involved Keyamo, the minister had dared the Joint Committee on Labour, over the employment of 774,000 Nigerians as part of the COVID-19 regime of palliatives.
The second case is that of the ongoing uncooperative disposition of the NDDC IMC, with respect to investigations by the National Assembly of recent mind-boggling instances of irregular payments under the IMC.
Among the curious twists in Pondei’s case was the order by the House of Representatives to the Inspector General of Police to effect the man’s arrest and facilitate his forced appearance before them.
Another was the attempted abduction of Joi Nunieh his predecessor in office by unnamed persons in police uniform, on Thursday in Port Harcourt, ostensibly to cause her harm and prevent her from honouring an invitation by the House of Representatives in Abuja.
The second dimension is the imperative of up-cycling of the legislative bureaucracy in order to endow the institution with the requisite capacities and capabilities, for the envisaged new deal in respect OF any tendency of recalcitrance by any of the designated officials.
It is trite knowledge that the quality of the enterprise of any legislature, rests squarely on the endowments of its bureaucracy which is its engine room. Hence the need for the political leadership of the institution to revisit the fortunes of its bureaucracy.
To wit is the fact that the legislative bureaucracy of the institution is not facing the best of times presently.
As at the last count, the bureaucracy is embroiled in an in-house tussle between it and the current National Assembly Service Commission (NASC), over the implementation of changes in service conditions, in particular, terms of retirement from service.
The bone of contention remains the provision of retirement at 40 years of service or 65 years of age, depending on which one comes first.
The dispensation which is a slight variation from the earlier provision of 35 years of service or 60 years of age, as practiced generically across the wider cross section of the country’s civil service structure, is backed by a resolution by the immediate past Eighth National Assembly.
Without doubt the most disturbing aspect of the turbulence in the system is the latest bid by the current NASC to remove the Clerk to the National Assembly Mohamed Sani-Omolori along with about 150 other officers in the system, through a reversion to the old order, citing the expiry of their legitimate stay in service.
In a press release dated July 15 2020, and personally signed by the NASC Chairman Ahmed Kadi Amshi, the Commission cited the National Assembly Act of 2014 to direct the affected officers to proceed on immediate retirement.
Needles to state that the development translated into a ‘volte face’ by the NASC over a provision that had been implemented even before its advent in December 2019, generated a groundswell of resentment by staff who had agitated for the new conditions of service in the first place, and saw the action of the NASC as a sudden erosion of their hard won gains.
Under pressure of stalling any new round of fresh turbulence by agitated staff, Omolori issued a follow-up press statement appealing to the staff to remain calm while the matter would be resolved.
His response was however interpreted by the NASC as an affront to it by the CNA, and on July 16 2020, it issued him a query which had to be answered within 24 hours.
However in the bid of the NASC to nail Omolori and others, it breached its own establishment Act of 2014. While standing on Section 6 to query the CNA for insubordination, it breached it breached Section 10 of the same act which prescribes that any disciplinary action against the CNA shall be preceded by an address to the floor of the National Assembly.
Lawyers and other observers believe that until such involvement of the political class in the National Assembly is procured, the disciplinary action against the CNA by the NASC remains a miscarriage of the provisions of law.
Ostensibly, unknown to a wide cross section of Nigerians is that while the legislature remains truncated in any previous military incursion into governance, the actual feature that bore the brunt of dislocation has always been the bureaucracy.
And at the cessation of military rule, the political class easily returns to business as usual, while the bureaucracy has to contend with re-establishing itself from the ruins of the respective military incursion.
Until 1979 when democratic rule returned to Nigeria with the Second Republic, the country operated the Westminster model of legislative practice where the executive and the legislature shared power and resources to a considerable extent, and the cross section of parliamentary officials were drawn from the mainstream civil service.
It was not until 2000 when for the first time the country established the relevant professional cadres of legislative officers, who would provide specialized services to that arm of government through the NASC Act of that year.
A fallout of this late arrival of professionalism in the legislative bureaucracy is the wide swathe of misreading of the workings of the bureaucrats in the system, ranging from the National Assembly to the state assemblies and even the 774 local government legislative chambers.
This situation demands from the political leadership of the National Assembly a more than salutary interest in the affairs of the engine room of the establishment, and its counterpart chambers, at the other tiers of government.
The starting point of that oversight of its bureaucracy is a closer and more discretional look at the proclivities of the NASC in its management of the career prospect s of the bureaucracy.