Staff of the National Assembly under the aegis of the Parliamentary Support Association of Nigeria, PASAN, true to their threat, on Tuesday, grounded activities at the Assembly complex.
They had given notice last week of their planned protest and picketing on Tuesday, December 4, if issues of unpaid allowances, delayed promotions and implementation of the Consolidated Salary Structure were not addressed to their satisfaction.
Lawmakers who turned up for plenary were turned back by the members of PASAN who kept their word to picket the Senate and House of Representatives.
They took over the central lobby adjoining the Senate and House of Representatives wings of the National Assembly complex carrying placards with various inscriptions and singing songs of protest.
Some of the placards read, ‘Promotion is our right,’ ‘Omolori must go,’ ‘We need alert,’ ‘Say no to consultancy, ‘Release our promotion letters now,’ ‘CONLESS has been approved since 2010,’ among others.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who ran into the protesters on his way to the chamber, attempted to address the protesters but they refused to listen to him.
Other lawmakers, who accessed the chambers through main entrances at the White House, were forced to turn back, by the aggressive stance of the protesters.
Uninvited, some members of the Nigeria Labour Congress barged into the National Assembly Complex and joined in the protest.
However, the protesters calmed down later and were addressed by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, with some principal officers of both chambers.
Saraki pleaded with them to allow the lawmakers dialogue with their leaders, after which the resolutions would be made known.
While Saraki was speaking, the workers chorused “no” and chanted “no alert, no sitting.”
However, the lawmakers and leaders of PASAN went into a closed-door meeting immediately after.
Later, Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Ahmad Lawan; House Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila; and Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas, addressed journalists.
where they appealed to the workers to suspend the action.
Lawan said, “The National Assembly, that is the leaderships of the Senate and the House of Representatives, had a meeting with the leadership of PASAN. For today, we have resolved with the leadership of PASAN to look into all the issues they have raised. All the issues they have raised are genuine and serious issues and they are of concern to us.
“As leaders of the National Assembly and indeed members of the National Assembly, we are interested in seeing and having our staff are well trained and productive. Therefore, we identify with those issues raised by PASAN.
“Let me take some of the issues for comments. For CONLESS, the position that we have taken is to ensure that we look into the implementation of the 28 per cent as agreed in the last 10 years. This will be achieved through a tripartite meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly, PASAN and the management of the National Assembly led by the CNA.”
“We have also agreed to immediately work in the two chambers to pass the Condition of Service for PASAN and our people who work here to have a better working environment and situation. This we have decided to start immediately from tomorrow, Wednesday. That will be in plenary session.
“Having said these, let me also say that we appeal to the leadership and followership of PASAN that it will be counterproductive to block the National Assembly chambers or stop plenary sessions from taking place, because most of these things we have agreed we will do, we can only achieve them if we are allowed to work and allow the environment for conducive interactions between the various stakeholders that are supposed to participate.
“It is our assumption that the leadership of PASAN will pass this information to its followership to allow the National Assembly chambers to operate from tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday.”
Earlier, the Chairman of PASAN, Mr Bature Musa, while addressing journalists: “The word ‘picketing’ does not prevent anybody from working, it is a message passed to the leadership of the National Assembly. And don’t forget, it is for a duration of between 9am and 2pm. Then, after that, everyone will return to work.
“We have not asked anybody not to go to their offices. What we had at the back of our minds when we set out was that when they come around, they will definitely find out what is happening because we have written to them almost eight months ago and nothing seemed to be happening. You will agree with me that they are almost on their way out and this is the best time for us to cry out loud because the whole world will know why we are embarking on this peaceful demonstration.”
The Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, who spoke to journalists, lamented that efforts made to pacify the workers and prevent the mass action failed.
“It is a matter that has been on for some time now and we have tried to explain to them. We approved salary increase for them, which was captured in the 2018 budget. But as it is today, it is a common knowledge that the level of implementation of the 2018 budget, especially the new addition to the National Assembly, has not been implemented – that is where we had hoped that the addition would be paid. So, to the extent that the money has not been released, there is no way we can make the payment.”
Security operatives, including men of the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, watched as the protesters sang and danced to their protest songs.