In the spirit of the doctrine of Separation of Powers and the need for legislative independence across board so as to strike a balance in the corporate governance of a nation, Nigerians have huge expectations that the reconstituted National Assembly Service Commission will do everything within its powers to strengthen the capacity of the Legislature to fulfill its core constitutional role as a co-equal branch of government.
These expectations have become more pronounced and acute given the critical role of the legislature in the evolution, survival of our democracy and nation building. Within the emergence of the democratic dispensation, true lovers of democracy believe that for our democracy to be sustained, thrive and flourish, the legislature should be encouraged to evolve into a strong, capable and virile institution that is self-sustainable and accountable.
The evolution and the operation of the National Assembly has been hamstrung by formidable challenges since democracy came in to be chiefly among them is capacity deficit and a robust pool of core of experienced bureaucrats, primed and tightly motivated to lay a solid foundation upon which this hallowed institution can flourish, thrive and deliver on its core mandate.
COCMEGG, as a watchdog, recalls vividly how our organization lobbied for enthronement of democratic norms and ethos, including the change in the retirement age of Legislative officers almost at par with the Judiciary.
It was in furtherance of this cardinal objective that both Chambers of the National Assembly in the twilight of the 8th Session approved a Revised Conditions of Service. The review envisioned by the National Assembly Service Commission and sponsored by Ahmad Lawan (then Majority Leader in the Senate) and Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (then Majority Leader, House of Representatives) stated that “a worker in the Service of the Legislature will henceforth be due for retirement on reaching the age of 65 or after 40 years in Service whichever comes first.” The idea is to ensure the effective transfer of the experience of the senior staff to the younger ones and to lay a solid foundation for the transfer of knowledge and capacity within the Legislature, just like is applicable in developed societies across the globe.
Driven by vision to attain noble and higher national objectives, both Chambers of the National Assembly deliberated upon and approved an upward adjustment in the years and age of retirement for the staff of the legislative arm. The reform was necessitated by the overriding need to entrench specialization, professionalism and quality service delivery that come with years of experience which is in sync with international best practices as borne out by overwhelming evidence from other jurisdictions.
The attention of the Coalition of Civil Societies and Media Executives for Good Governance in Nigeria (COCMEGG) has been drawn to the orchestrated, sponsored, false, misleading statement, and media mischief against the Management of the National Assembly in various publications recently with the headline: “CSO Wants Implementation of NASS Amended Condition of Service Stopped.” As champions and propagators of transparency, good governance and accountability in public service and the total wellbeing of Nigerians for the development of the country, COCMEGG hereby condemns this malicious uncouth statement, frivolous content of bizarre allegations, and politically motivated smear campaign of calumny by these agents-provocateurs that go by the name “New Level Due Process Group.”
COCMEGG also wishes to descend heavily on these fifth columnists and mischief makers peddling falsehood and circulation of fake news about the National Assembly in order to draw the hard reputation of the Management of the National Assembly into odium and ridicule and further advises Nigerians to disregard the innuendoes and rumour mill by these self-serving and ill-motivated sponsored allegations.
These are aimed at resolving personal grievances, settling perceived old scores and seeking revenge on assumed enemies. COCMEGG describes the so-called group as a representative voice and bandwagon of evil conspirators and a cabal full of mischief and urges Nigerians to be wary of their antics and disregard these allegation as a mere hoax and hogwash.
Accordingly, COCMEGG’s worry and concerns stem from the fact that those mischief makers and agent-provocateurs donning the garb of “progressives,” hide under the umbrella and cloak of the anti-corruption war to persecute their perceived enemies, political opponents and people with contrary views, because, in Nigeria, it is widely believed that a mere allegation is as good as a guilty verdict in the court of public opinion. However, in this case, their allegations should be discountenanced, disregarded and condemned in its entirety by right thinking Nigerians.
The National Assembly’s Revised Condition of Service is clearly within the framework of legislative independence and the limitations imposed on it by the Nigerian Constitution. The existence of the Judicial Service Commission and the National Assembly Service Commission, which are creations of the constitution, invests in them certain powers to act as captured in the relevant sections of its Acts. As an independent arm of government, the Legislature, just like the Judiciary, has the legal powers to fashion rules and regulations regarding the conditions of service of its workforce. And, as such, the “Next Level Due Process Group” has displayed crass ignorance as “Conditions of Service” cannot be same as a “Bill.”
The group’s personalization of this commendable effort by the National Assembly which is aimed at giving its workers humane face value and good conditions of service is clearly unfortunate and not in the interest of the Legislature. The visible and invisible forces at work propelling these unfounded allegations and contrived crises have thrown all semblances of reason, caution and decorum overboard accusing the National Assembly Management without shred of evidence by this so-called “progressive group.” The narrow and self-serving prism and sponsorship upon which this campaign of calumny is predicated exposed a sustained vicious campaign by powerful vested interests to impugn, malign the integrity and hard-work of the present Management led by a bureaucrat of the first order and Clerk of the National Assembly.
Since the advent of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, it has had cause to extend the tenure of some Permanent Secretaries, Directors-General, to bequeath experience and knowledge to those succeeding them or guide the new Ministers taking over administration in such ministries.
His activities acknowledge the importance of experience and knowledge to the next generation in public service. So also the universities and the Judiciary have followed in the critical need for institutional paradigm shift and transfer by adopting and exploring the age for professors and Judges. The Legislature surely must reap from this benefit and needs this increase if it must sustain its capacity growth and consolidation. The “Next Level Due Process Group” is blinded by their narrow, selfish and parochial interest. The group’s thinking is not in tandem with realities. The “NEXT Level Group” is not also looking at the big picture on the brighter side, but ignorantly casting aspersions and false propaganda, including spreading of falsehood against the Management of the National Assembly. This will do no one any good.
The ongoing criticisms against the good intentions of the National Assembly by this sponsored group are part of the larger agenda being orchestrated by fifth columnists to bandy outright falsehood, so as to please their sponsors and retard the growth and consolidation of the National Assembly. It is pertinent to state categorically that this mischief is the handiwork of timid and bare-footed politicians who lack grassroots appeal, political astuteness, sagacity and brinkmanship to propel the needed change under their watch. They are afraid of the paradigm shift presently taking place at the National Assembly. They are, as well, hell bent on thwarting the present Management’s transformation efforts.
COCMEGG therefore, condemns in strong terms, the intemperate castigation and malicious publications in various media platforms deliberately to smear the hard earned reputation of the Management of the National Assembly. COCMEGG passes a vote of confidence on the present Management of the National Assembly and hereby urges it not to be distracted by these allegations but remain focused on the task ahead.
COCMEGG believes that Mohammed Abba Sani-Omolori of the National Assembly and Engr. Ahmed Kadi-Amshi led National Assembly Service Commission (NASC), the duo, a worthy partnership, of shared vision and total commitment and collaboration will lead to a pivotal enduring legacy to bequeath the next generation, surmounting the challenges therein, and guiding the Legislature in the path of consolidation and sustainability.
OMOBA KENNETH AIGBEGBELE