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Intrigues as feud over National Assembly clerk deepens

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh and Adamu Abuh,
03 May 2016   |   3:47 am
The National Assembly Commission’s Chairman is on a warpath with Senate President over the appointment of new clerk of National Assembly.
National Assembly Complex Abuja.

National Assembly Complex Abuja.

A serious power play between the leadership of the Senate and the National Assembly Service Commission over the appointment of an acting Clerk of the National Assembly (CNA) is threatening the smooth operation of the legislative arm of government.

The commission, statutorily charged with the appointment and management of the staff of the National Assembly, irked the political leadership of the legislature by the appointment of a new CNA without the approval of the Senate President.

The development has put the commission’s Chairman, Adamu Fika, on a warpath with Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who was said to be against the new appointment.

Muhammed Sani-Omolori has, in acting capacity, replaced the outgoing Clerk, Salisu Maikasuwa who proceeds on terminal leave on May 14, an appointment that drew the ire of the political leadership.

The ensuing intrigues have also created a crack within the commission as seven out of its 13 members have disagreed with the rest over Sani-Omolori’s appointment while members of the Senate have begun various deliberations to find a solution to the disagreement.

The political scheming that always heralds the appointment began with unusual exchange of letters between Saraki and Fika.

While the commission insists that the appointment of Sani-Omolori as acting CNA remains valid, the Senate President and the political leadership of the Senate have continued to reject the appointment.

Last Thursday, the Senate held a closed session lasting over an hour discussing what some lawmakers called an embarrassing disrespect exhibited by Fika.

It was learnt, however, that many senators felt ‎the Senate leadership should exercise caution so that the impression would not be created that the Senate was interfering with the commission and preventing it from the work it was put in place by an Act of the National Assembly to carry out.

With seven out of the 13 members of the commission passing a vote of no confidence in Fika and opposing Sani-Omolori, it is clear that the membership has been divided along the lines of loyalty to the chairman and the Senate President.

But those supporting Fika described as unrealistic, efforts by other members to render the decision to appoint Omolori invalid, pointing out that the only way Sani-Omolori could be removed as Acting Clerk is through a formal reversal by the commission at a meeting presided over by Fika himself.

Their argument is that ‎”even if all the commissioners are now against their earlier decision to appoint Omolori, the honourable path is to go back to the forum of the meeting of the commission to reverse themselves. They have become functus officio as far as that decision is concerned.”

According to these pro-Fika members of the ‎commission, “until a formal meeting of the commission reversed the decision and it is duly communicated by the chairman, who is the only authority to do so, the action of all those having nocturnal meetings and signing papers amounts to a hoax.

“They have the option of seeking judicial remedy. We do not doubt the impeccable records of the chairman of the commission. Those of us who chose to stand on the side of the truth and justice will remain firm.”

However, in a letter to Fika, which was copied to the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, the seven anti-Fika commissioners said they had also passed a vote of no confidence in Fika.

Those who allegedly signed the letter include Abubakar Rufai (North West), Idi Ningi (North East), Joseph Oru (South South) and Paul Oweh (South South).

Others are Stephen Yepwi (North Central), Mrs. Oluwafunmilola Lamuye (South West) and Abel Chukwu (North East).

They said contrary to reports, only one commissioner was in support of the appointment while the other five were silent at the commission’s meeting on April 20.

The letter reads in part: “Strangely you ruled that the memo had been carried and Mr. Mohammed Sani-Omolori is appointed the Acting Clerk of the National Assembly. You went ahead to issue a letter of appointment to Mr. Sani-Omolori right after the meeting, against the commission’s norm of adopting the minutes of the meeting at another meeting before carrying out decisions taken.

“The above actions of yours have attracted undue negative publicity to the commission and greatly depleted our integrity. Also recall that in November 2014 you unilaterally issued a letter of appointment to the same Sani-Omolori as Deputy Clerk until members wrote, dissociating themselves from your action.

“Eleven commissioners out of twelve (excluding the chairman) signed that letter: the commission then met and voted overwhelmingly in favour of the appointment of Mr. Ben Efeturi who was regarded as the most suitable candidate.”

The position of the Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly (DCNA) is a later creation to accommodate very powerful interest in the power play game, some years ago.

After suffering a loss in the initial political intrigues that schemed him out of the race for the office of the Clerk of the Senate, Nasir Arab became the first occupier of the office of the DCNA. He succeeded Ahmed Salim as CNA.

Outgoing CNA, Salisu Maikasuwa, did not also occupy the office of the Clerk of the Senate before getting on as CNA due to similar intrigues.

Last Tuesday, Fika wrote an official letter to Saraki where he openly declared as untenable and strange to the rules and regulations, the Senate President’s directive ordering the withdrawal of a letter of appointment to Sani-Omolori.

In the letter, Fika argued that Omolori was even supposed to have been appointed as deputy clerk to the National Assembly in 2014 but was denied.

He explained that in Nigeria’s public service, seniority is determined at the time of consideration for promotion and career progression chart leading to it.

According to him, “Seniority has never and is never decided by the date of appointment to the service nor date of retirement from service or indeed the number of years spent in the service.

“The decision to appoint Omolori was taken at the commission’s 440th meeting held on the 20th day of April 2016. The commission took into account the fact that Mr. Benedict Efeturi will himself proceed on his pre-retirement leave on 2nd August 2016, twelve days before the incumbent clerk will be due to hand over to his successor.

“This means that Mr. Efeturi is time-barred for the Acting Appointment, hence the choice of Mr. Sani-Omolori to act and ensure continuity in that very important Public Service office where he will serve for the next five years.”

But Saraki’s directive for the withdrawal of the letter of appointment which was contained in an official letter signed by the Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Isah Galaudu,‎ made it clear that Omolori’s appointment was in violation of the procedure for appointing National Assembly clerks.

It reads: “We present to you the compliments of the President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, Distinguished Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki. Please recall that during your last meeting with the President of the Senate on April 20, 2016, the procedure of the appointment of the Acting Clerk of the National Assembly was discussed. The commission was directed to follow due process and ensure that seniority is adhered to.

“Of course, Mr. Benedict Efeturi, who is Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly (DCNA) and who has previously acted as the Clerk of the National Assembly should be the first to be considered.

“Most importantly, you have been directed to confer with the President of the Senate on the outcome of the commission’s meeting before a letter of appointment is issued and regrettably, that did not happen.”

But Ningi representing the North East zone in the commission has denied endorsing Efeturi as clerk penultimate week. In a hand-written letter addressed to Fika dated April 29, 2016, Ningi maintained that his support for the appointment of Sani-Omolori as acting clerk remained unflinching.

Ningi’s support for Sani-Omolori’s appointment, has reduced the number of those supporting Efeturi to six, falling short of the required number of seven needed to reverse the appointment.

In the letter, Ningi said that on April 26, 2016 he and his colleague Alhaji Rufai Tuta were invited for a meeting of the commission with Saraki at his residence around 7:00p.m.

“There I met some of our colleagues already seated- Elder Yepwi, Funmilayo Lamuye, Paul Oweh and Joseph Oru.

“At the meeting one of my colleagues walked towards my seat with a sheet of paper which he gave to my colleague sitting close to me, Alhaji Tuta, to sign and thereafter gave it to me.

“I noticed that the paper was merely to write our names, the zone we represent and signature to indicate our attendance at the meeting and I signed accordingly.

“I am therefore shocked and surprised to learn that I signed a document. No document was presented at the meeting and I did not sign any document but an attendance sheet.

“I could not have signed any document dissociating myself from the decision of the commission as I had earlier on 19th April, 2016 in a hand-written note expressed my support for the appointment of Alhaji Sani Omolori as acting Clerk to the National Assembly.’’

Meanwhile, the Association of Parliamentary Writers (APW) has demanded Fika’s resignation over the role it believed he played in the controversial appointment.

APW said Fika, through his conduct in attempting to foist illegality on the bureaucracy of the National Assembly, has become an embarrassment to the Nigerian Parliament and its civil service.

The association in a statement issued yesterday by its Director of Publicity, Edward Banigo, said the actions of Fika could not be tolerated by patriotic Nigerians who stand for progress.

Urging ant- corruption agencies to investigate Fika’s conduct, APW said: “It is imperative that the leadership of the National Assembly and members irrespective of the chambers they belong or political divide to take drastic actions towards ensuring that Adamu Fika does not go free after bringing the National Assembly and the Commission to undue negative publicity.”

APW also faulted Fika’s position that civil service rules state that a civil servant who has six months in service should not be appointed into office. The group posited that Efeturi in assuming the office of Clerk to the National Assembly is by promotion and not by appointment as insinuated by Fika.