Hundreds of workers in the National Assembly under the aegis of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) staged a demonstration to protest unpaid entitlements at the complex in Abuja on Tuesday, December 4, 2018.
The placard-carrying protesters were stationed inside the complex and blocked the entrance of the legislative chambers, and, at some point, prevented the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, from gaining access.
The parliamentary workers, who occupied the central lobby adjoining the Senate and House of Representatives chambers, were also unwelcoming when the lawmaker tried to address them.
They also stopped many lawmakers from gaining access to the chambers, forcing them to retire to their various offices in the complex.
The workers complained about unpaid entitlements that stretch as far back as 2010, as well as failure to promote or train staff members as required.
A protester, identified as Sunday, told Premium Times, "The protest is about our salaries and allowances. In 2010 the Senate and the House of Reps acted on the recommendations of the National Assembly Service Commission and approved Consolidated Salaries Structures for National Assembly Staff.
"And at that time, a certain percentage which was supposed to be 50 per cent was paid at the time of approval with a promise that after that time, it would be extended to 100 per cent. That was the agreement.
"When the time came for them to complete implementations, the management of the National Assembly kept telling us approvals and releases have not been given and Ministry of Finance have not released the payment and so many excuses.
"When it comes to their own allowances, it’s not delayed one day. How come just stipends for staff is difficult for them? What we are protesting here, at the end of the day, it will not be more than N10, 000 or N15,000 added to the salary of an officer here, but the legislators earn hundreds of millions.
"As we speak now, the National Assembly Service Commission that is statutorily responsible for appointments and promotions has released promotions of officers that were successful at the last promotion exams; but till now the CNA (Clerk of the National Assembly) is withholding those promotions.
"We are also protesting staff training. Every year, there are huge budgets for training of staff but nothing like that has been done. Some staff have not had training since they came. But directors and senior officers keep putting themselves in hotels across the country in the name of training."
While speaking to the media, PASAN chairman, Bature Musa, said the protest was to ensure that their voices are heard by the leadership of the National Assembly.
He said, "What we have at the back of our minds when we set out is 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 seems 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 load because the whole world will know why we are embarking on this peaceful demonstration."
Saraki promises to resolve conflict
While addressing the angry workers on Tuesday, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the leadership of the National Assembly will resolve the issue by the end of the week.
He said, "What I am committing to you alongside the leadership is that we must find money to ensure the implementation of your demand. But for us to find a solution, we must be able to sit down and hold a meeting.
"We want you to be paid but we must be able to sit down and discuss with the management on how to go about this. You should give us time to hold a meeting.
"If you allow us, the report on the condition of service will be considered immediately by the two chambers so that we can pass that immediately.
"We want to meet with you and communicate to you on the way forward but for that to happen, we must be able to sit."
The protesters were unconvinced by Saraki's assurance and vowed that the chambers in the complex will not be opened until they receive their entitlements. "No alert, no sitting!" they chanted.
They called for the removal of Mohammed Sani-Omolori as the Clerk to the National Assembly.