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National Assembly without service commission board


National Assembly

A report the other day about the non-constitution of the National Assembly Service Commission Board, which is said to be causing some disquiet at the National Assembly, is a yet another story of how Abuja has become a sad story of executive and legislative procrastination. This is not inspiring.

According to the report, the lawmaking body had been without a board in the last two months, following the expiration of the tenure of the last board on September 4, 2018. Whatever happened to the governance system has been overtaken by politics of 2019 elections.

This is a paradox of development as ordinarily, those running for offices should run on the records of their service delivery efficiency.

It is not a healthy development that National Assembly’s presiding officers could not deal with its bureaucracy issue before the tenure of the 12 commissioners expired.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan had on September 4, 2013, inaugurated the last board chaired by Dr. Adamu Fika.

The National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) Act 2000 provides for a tenure of five years for the chairman and its 12 other members nominated from the six geo-political zones in the country.

The Act vests the power to propose the names of possible members of the Commission in the President of the Senate, in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The presiding officers of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate President, shall in turn, submit the list to the President to make his pick to the Senate for confirmation.

It is curious that since the expiration of last board’s tenure, no list of board members had been drawn by the presiding officers, thereby leaving the National Assembly Service Commission without a board.

No doubt, there are dire consequences for not having a board in place at this moment.

The Commission is the clearing house for the federal legislature’s bureaucracy just as the Executive arm’s Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) and the Judiciary’s Judicial Service Commission.

Without the full house of the NASC, important decisions on human resources at the federal legislature would therefore suffer.

There are indeed consequences for this tardiness. And so the immediate implication of this is that in the absence of the regulator, the NASC, the National Assembly leadership may resort to extra-legal means to run the affairs of the bureaucracy.

And so, in collaboration with the Clerk to the National Assembly, the presiding officers can resort to taking unilateral decisions and authorising approvals, which violates the law setting up the NASC.

What is more, the Clerk can also act arbitrarily even in the sensitive areas of procurement, recruitment, discipline and promotion. All staff appointments, promotion, transfers, as well as welfare issues, are undertaken by the commission. These important aspects of the work of the commission are therefore stalled at the moment.

According to the perking order in the National Assembly’s bureaucracy as established by the NASC Act, the Clerk, National Assembly is the head of the Legislative Service just as the head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF).

The Deputy Clerk, National Assembly and Clerks of the Senate and the House of Representatives are Permanent Secretaries. The Deputy Clerks are Directors in the Service.

Meanwhile, there are even outstanding critical governance issues at the Assembly that absence of a board can stall too.

One of them is that the National Assembly currently owes legislative aides Tour Duty Allowances in excess of N5 billion, a reason the workers had resorted to protesting openly lately on the premises of the National Assembly.

The other important issue is that the tenure of office of the Clerk National Assembly (CAN) will expire this year. And so the Clerk, National Assembly, Mr. Sanni Ataba Omolori is said to have been given a green light to begin his retirement leave from November 15, 2018.

A report indicated that in the absence of the Assembly’s Commission, the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, (OHCSF) had to weigh in when there were disputes over retirement issues since the NASC records were transferred from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.

In this regard, the chairman and deputy chairman of the Joint Session of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate and the Speaker, House of Representatives should accept responsibility for this tardiness at the federal legislature. They should have completed nomination of new Commissioners and Chairman before the tenure of the last ones expired in September this year. They should get cracking immediately since the President who should send the final list comprising two from each of the six geo-political zones in the country is a procrastinator too.

The recourse of the NASS Commission to the office of Head of the Civil Service of the Federation for confirmation of records of service of its retiring Clerk, National Assembly, is a disservice to the federal legislature that has had its Service Commission since October 2000.

Why should this administration be constantly bugged down by the power of procrastination anyway? The confirmation of the current Chief Justice of Nigeria was noisy, no thanks to delay in nominating him to the National Assembly in 2017.

He was first named as Acting CJN, a strange development in the sector, as it was highlighted at the time.

The then Acting President had to forward his name to the Senate on the last day of expiration of his acting capacity. It was breathtaking.

In the same vein, the tenure of the chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), Deaconess Joan Ayo, too expired since March 2017.

She was replaced only last month when the Senate confirmed Dr. Tukur Bello Ngawa who was nominated since July 17 this year as new chairman of the FCSC.

Now it is the turn of the National Assembly Civil Service to suffer paralysis from official dithering and this is unacceptable! The presiding officers of the country’s bicameral legislature should freeze political activities today and deal with the urgency that the nomination of the chairman and 12 commissioners of the National Assembly Service Commission requires – before this enemy called procrastination wreaks havoc again in the Three Arms Zone of the nation’s capital.

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