By Joshua Omoloye, Abuja
National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum ( NASSLAF) on Thursday alleged that management of the National Assembly diverted the sum of N25bn meant for payment of salaries and arrears of their minimum wage for 21 months.
The over 4,000 members of the 469 federal lawmakers are consequently prepared for a peaceful protests next week Wednesday, to drive home their demands.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on Thursday, NASLAF Chairman, Salisu Zuru, accused the management of diverting N25bn meant for the payment of his members’ salary arrears.
The aides said they were demanding payment of the outstanding balance of the 2019 salary arrears and payment of the remaining 20 months minimum wage arrears.
Others according to him included the immediate implementation of the minimum wage consequential adjustment with effect from February, 2022 and implementation of the initial 50 per cent CONLESS effective March 2022.
Their demands also included immediate payment of accumulated DTA from 2019 till date, with effect from March, 2022.
They are also asking for the commencement of immediate training programme for all cadres of legislative aides in the service of the National Assembly management.
He said “In the 2019 Appropriation Act, the sum of N128bn was appropriated for salaries and overhead for legislators, National Assembly bureaucracy and legislative aides.
“This means that salaries and allowances of legislative aides and their principals (legislators) takes effect from the day of inauguration of the 9th Assembly officially recognized as their date of assumption of duty, 11 June, 2019.
“Legislative aides usually assume duty same day with their principals, but due to bottlenecks from the then National Assembly Service Commission, aides received appointment letters between 11 June – 31st December 2019, endorsed by their Principals with effective date from 11 June, 2019.
“When it was time for payment of the arrears, management chose to pay some aides and refused to pay others.
“As a prelude to what to expect in the coming weeks, the exco will lead over 4,000 legislative aides on a peaceful protest, Wednesday, 2nd March 2022 from 8am.
“Accordingly, all aides are hereby mobilised to turn up en mass. After the warning protests, we shall reveal our next line of actions,” Zuru said.
But in a swift response, Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr. Amos Ojo, has denied diverting N25bn that was to be used to pay the legislative aides arrears.
Austen Adesoro, Special Adviser on Media and Labour to the CNA described the allegation as “baseless speculative and unfounded allegations by the NASSLAF that the National Assembly management allegedly diverted and embezzled funds appropriated for legislative aides”
Ojo said, “With cognizance to legitimate allowances yet to be paid to few Aides, NASSLAFF should learn to exhaust the internal mechanism for dispute resolutions as stipulated in the extant labour laws.
” They should also come to terms with reality of the paucity of funds confronting the Legislature and the nation with urgent need to prioritize the copious needs on ground.”
Ojo, expressed the regret that the union leaders inability to communicate management’s challenges and efforts in finding solution to its members but resort to deliberate blackmail thereby undermining their conditions of engagement which states that their appointment is at the instance of their principals.
The CNA stated that funds approved in December 2021 through Virement was N25bn which was meant for payment of minimum wage arrears and outstanding liabilities owed local contractor.
He said, “Out of the approved amount, N5bn was released for payment of minimum wage arrears wherein National Assembly staff and National Assembly Service Commission staff was allocated N2.3bn while legislative aides got N2.7bn.
“This amount regrettably was not enough, considering the large number of legislative aides to offset the total arrears owed.”
He added that the N20bn left for payment of liabilities owed local contractors is still domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria.