Lawmakers Allegedly stripped Aides Of Entitlements
NASS management and lawmakers are withholding information over hundreds of millions of naira in allowances for legislative aides said to have been withheld since 2015 to date, the situation according to NASS sources will persist as long as the allowances of these aides are paid directly to their bosses.
Indeed, On Thursday, June 13, 2019 this newspaper reported that the National Assembly complex lobby was filled with thousands of job seekers who thronged the legislative building to secure employment with the newly inaugurated lawmakers.
Majority of the job seekers were those whose employment just ended with the dissolution of the 8th Assembly last week Thursday.
The Nigerians who came from all parts of the country were a mixture of both former legislative aides and secretaries to out-gone lawmakers both in both chambers
The sheer number overwhelmed the Assembly security who attempted to close doors leading to lawmakers’ offices against the unemployed Nigerians.
The situation, which has become a usual sight every four years, leaves tales of woes and dejection in its wake, especially for those not lucky enough to have their bosses reelected into the National Assembly.
Sunday INDEPENDENT gathered that many of those who had worked as legislative aides in the past should have been well-off financially had their accumulated duty tour allowances (DTAs), and severance packages been paid as expected or required.
Despite having served different lawmakers in more than three different assemblies, Mr. Justine Ohaba (not real name) told our correspondent that he had to come back to look for the same job after every four years.
The rules of both Chambers provide that each lawmaker is entitled to at least, 5 aides both in Abuja and their constituency offices.
The practice is that all aides employed by lawmakers are captured in the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) data base from where their remunerations are paid.
However, lawmakers have over the years, allegedly devised means of subverting the process by electing to pay the aides from their pockets, salaries far lower than what’s approved by the NASC.
“The aides so employed are taken advantage of as less than half of what’s due to them is paid at the end of every month”, Ohaba tells me.
Joined the SLA business as a young lawyer fresh out of law school, 47 years old Ohaba corroborated an allegation that some lawmakers in previous assemblies have had to force their Abuja-based aides to share their salaries with those in their constituency offices while the lawmakers pocketed what was meant to service the constituency based aides.
He revealed that a senior legislative aide (SLA) (consolidated), just like himself is entitled to earn between N500, and N600,000 monthly including allowances, while a legislative aide (LA) is entitled to earn between N250,000 to N300,000 including allowances.
But the father of three said what comes to most of them, including him is less than half of what their dues should be as some lawmakers have perfected the art of shortchanging them for their relations and children whose names are sent to the NASC for appointment letters.
Asked how they go around such manipulation without the connivance of the management that makes the payments, he said, “Different persons are called to pose as the real bearers of names on the appointment letters which they sign for and do documentation”.
“In the end, monies paid into bank accounts given to them by the lawmakers as belonging to their real bearers of the letters would be taken with as little as between N40,000 and N60,000 paid to the ones who do the actual work of legislative aides.
Some of the job seekers said they find themselves in the situation every four years due to crippling unemployment in the country.
Recall that in 2017, former legislative aides in the 7th Assembly staged protests to the National Assembly complex demanding for their unpaid allowances and severance packages.
They claimed to have been owed for an average of 8 years for those lucky enough to have served in two different assemblies, while those who served in just one were claiming four years of unpaid allowances and severance packages.
They also alleged that the Federal Government had in a 2016 supplementary budget voted the sum of N10 billion meant for the payment of all outstanding benefits owed former legislative aides from previous Assemblies.
Our attempts to get reactions from National Assembly officials have serially met brick walls, even as lawmakers say they have no role whatsoever in the payment of salaries and allowances of their aides.
A returning member of the House told Sunday INDEPENDENT of how he had to petition the speaker on matters relating to unpaid allowances of legislative aides, saying that they (aides) are the drivers of legislative activities in the National Assembly.
“The reason why we have aides is exactly as their name implies, to aide our work of lawmaking on behalf of Nigerians who elected us to this place. No matter how good or hardworking we want to be, we can’t function properly without the contributions of our aides.
“They do the research, the running around for data and move from one place to another filling motions and bills generated for entry and subsequent approval by the Speaker who directs the Committee on Rules and Business to schedule same for presentation and debates.
“So for me, the wellbeing of the aides should be as much a priority as those of us members, because they play as much important a role in our legislative work.
“But for anybody to shortchange them of their entitlement in whatever guise is callous to say the least. I can never stoop so low, because before coming here in 2015, I was in the private sector where I had over 500 young people on my pay roll.
“I’ve had to go out of my way to give my aides money from my pockets each time salaries were delayed, and my aides get their full money which I don’t even know when they get paid. They earn theirs, I earn mine”, he noted.
While some fortunate aides may have enjoyed full benefit of their work serving considerate lawmakers, others have had to impersonate family members of their bosses to get by, even though they “slave” from Monday to Friday working for the pittance they get.
Those who protested their unpaid severance and allowances accused the management of colluding with their bosses to shut them out and deny them their Entitlements.
While they claimed to have petitioned the anti-graft agencies in the matter, nothing has been heard regarding the investigation and attempt to recover the said amount which is said to have risen above N10 billion since 2016.