By Sanni Onogu, Abuja
Legislative workers under the auspices of the Concerned Staff of National and State Houses of Assembly (CSNSHA) have condemned the position of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HOCSF), Mrs. Folasade Yemi-Esan, on the Revised Conditions of Service for National Assembly Staff.
Yemi-Esan had in a letter addressed to the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly recently, insisted that the Revised Conditions of Service passed by the 8th National Assembly did not follow due process in accordance to Public Service Rules (PSR).
She said that both chambers of the National Assembly lacked the competence to amend the Conditions of Service without recourse to the Federal Executive Council through the National Council on Establishment.
The Revised Conditions of Service pegged the new retirement age for National Assembly at 65 years or 40 years in Service.
Following the amendment, the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori and about 150 directors who were near their retirement age had their years of service extended with five years each.
The position of the National Assembly workers was contained in a letter they addressed to the President, Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Senators and Rep members of the 9th National Assembly.
The letter was titled: “On the position of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation on the revised Conditions of Service for staff of the National Assembly passed by the 8th National Assembly.”
It was signed by the association’s National President, Comrade Salisu Funtua, National Secretary, Comrade Akindele Adesanya and National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Aguawike Ebele.
The legislative workers accused the HOCSF of taking a “position that made it seem as if she has authority over legislative proceedings…and became an arbiter in the Resolution passed by both Chambers of the National Assembly.”
They noted that what the HOCSF has done was to “create unnecessary confusion.”
The legislative staff said, “The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HOCSF), Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan recently responded to the trending issue of the Revised Conditions of Service for Staff of the National Assembly which has been a subject of media discuss for over two months.
“In her submission, she took a position that made it seem as if she has authority over legislative proceedings of the legislature and became an arbiter in the Resolution passed by both Chambers of the National Assembly.
“What it means is that every resolution passed by the National Assembly including setting guidelines for the conduct of the plenaries in both Chambers of the National Assembly should pass through the Head of the civil service of the federation, since in the view of the Head of Service, the National Assembly cannot act as independent arm of government.
“It is beyond dispute that the National Assembly Service Commission is the regulatory body for the National Assembly.
“It is the equivalent of the Federal Civil Service Commission and the Federal Judicial Service Commission with respect to the National Assembly.
“The reference to the Civil Service Commission of Federation or of a State in subsection (4) of Section 6 of the National Assembly Service Commission Act is in sync with this stance.
“It is pertinent to note that the Head of service is not a Commission and even within the civil service jurisdiction, it is the Federal Civil Service Commission that appoints, dismisses and exercise disciplinary control over civil servants as contained in paragraph 11 (1)(a) – (b) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.
“Hence, the Head of Service lacks the constitutional and statutory competence to dictate issues that bordered on the National Assembly Service Commission jurisdiction.
“The memo of the Head of Service can only be considered as an advisory opinion to the leadership of the National Assembly without any force of Law.
“It has no binding effect because it is a policy statement, guidelines or instrument of whatever value.“
They insisted that the National Assembly is a master of its own house on the constitutionally entrenched concept of separation of powers.
“It is therefore, not subject to the National Council on Establishment (NCE) advocacy. This council is an executive arm forum which is a departure from the pith and substance of our argument on an independent National Assembly.
“Our humble submission is based on the generational clarion call to save our constitutional democracy from extinction and subjugation to the executive arm of government.
“In the light of the foregoing, the Revised Conditions of Service for staff of the National Assembly passed by the two Chambers of the National Assembly in the 8th Assembly was done within the powers of the National Assembly as an arm of government.
“The National Assembly Service Commission that originated the proposal to the 8th Assembly only exercised its powers in section 19 (1) of the National Assembly Service Act 2014 and it is a positive response to the apprehensive scarcity of specialized legislative bureaucrats all over the world, especially, legislative drafters, reporters, and legislative scrutiny experts etc.
“There is no way the legislature in Nigeria can develop if it is tied to the apron strings of the executive hence the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provided each arm of government their operational modalities and limits and to encroach on any other’s territory as the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HOCSF) has done is to create unnecessary confusion.
“By section 51 of the 1999 Constitution the Clerk of the National Assembly is the Head of Service of the Legislature and therefore of equivalent status with the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HOCSF).
“As staff of the Legislature we say unequivocally that the procedure for the Revised Conditions of Service for staff followed due process of the law within the powers of the National Assembly and it has been smoothly implemented for the past one year.
“Our immediate request to the leadership of the National Assembly is full implementation of the Revised Conditions of Service so that the purpose of the revision will be achieved.
“The Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representative and indeed the Leadership of the National Assembly are today faced with Consequential decision which will cement their Legacy of Service; they can either acquiesce to the position of the Head of Service in this very matter or stand resolute in defense of legislative independence.
“We believe that it would be a profound mistake to surrender the independence of the legislature under guise.
“While we trust that the present leadership of the National Assembly will have the courage to stand up to the present challenge, we pray that their action(s) and inaction(s) on this very issue will stand them in good stead. Either way the Judgment of history beckons,” the association added.