The Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria has threatened to shut down the National Assembly and Houses of Assembly to protest failure to grant autonomy to the legislature.
In separate letters to Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum; Chairman, Forum of Speakers, and Department of State Services, PASAN pointed out that it had earlier issued a mandatory 21-day industrial action notice.
The letters, signed by the Acting Secretar-General, Agugbue Happiness, argued that their decision to shut down the Houses of Assembly became imperative due to the governors’ failure to implement the financial autonomy as provided in the constitution.
Happiness said the ultimatum was given on September 18, but the governors ignored it till it expired.
The letter read, “We refer to our letters dated September 18 and October 7, 2023, on the 21-day ultimatum to embark on industrial action if financial autonomy is not implemented in the State Houses of Assembly by October 18. We hereby inform you that the leadership of our great union has further extended the ultimatum by one week.
“We hope the extension would further avail ample opportunity to meet our demands and avert the industrial action. We reiterate the union’s preparedness to direct its members to embark on the proposed strike if its demands are not yielded to.”
Meanwhile, some states on Monday had embarked on protest and shutdown their House of Assemblies to register their demands.
The Ondo State House of Assembly complex was locked as protesting workers staged a peaceful walk to press home their demands.
Chairman, Mrs. Omolola Olufemi, said “The bedrock of parliamentary autonomy hinges on financial independence. defined as non-dependence and non-subordination of parliaments in relation to the executive.
“The parliaments should have equitable access to resources. As such, parliaments by constitutional arrangements should have enough financial muscle to carry out their legislative mandate, including exercising power over the budget.”
Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, Aondona Dajoh and other lawmakers were barred from accessing the Assembly complex.
Dajoh, while speaking with the workers, stated that financial autonomy for state legislatures has become a constitutional matter that should be complied with in order to strengthen the legislature.
He, however, expressed optimism that the dispute will not last for long, and also hailed members of the association for being peaceful in their agitations.
PASAN Chairman, Comrade Francis Adole, argued that having autonomy will allow state legislatures be more independent to perform their lawful duties of checking the excesses of other arms of government, among many others.
Activities at the Edo State House of Assembly were grounded with protesters barricading the gates and preventing lawmakers and visitors from accessing the complex.
State Chairman, Umaru Haruna, said, “We are complying with the national directive after the expiration of the ultimatum given governors to implement autonomy for legislatures.”
Also, Parliamentary staff shut the gate of the Oyo State House of Assembly. They mounted a roadblock at the entrance and danced to music oozing from the DJ stand.
They said the move was in compliance with the national directive. The mild protest however did not disrupt activities within the Oyo State Secretariat as visitors and workers went about their normal duties.
Aside from a big banner placed at the entrance gate, other placards with various inscriptions were also pasted at different points of the protest areas.
The inscription on the big banner read ‘Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) embarks on a nationwide strike over non-implementation of financial autonomy for state legislatures, Keep off’.
Chairman, Comrade Yemi Alade, said if the relevant stakeholders and government don’t do the needful, ‘parliamentary workers will not watch them deny us our rights’.
In Anambra State, workers also joined the protest as they barricaded entrance to the House of Assembly.
Chairman Abraham Okoye said the action was in compliance with the directive from the national body.
He bemoaned the poor working condition, regretting that the state appeared to be the worst in the country.
Okoye vowed that the strike would continue until they receive directive from the national body or attention from the governor.
He said, “Some states, including Anambra, have failed to implement Section 121 of the Constitution, 5th Alteration, which granted full financial autonomy to the House of Assembly. Former Governor Willie Obiano signed a law granting the legislature and the judiciary autonomy to manage their funds. In August 2022, the Assembly also passed a resolution calling for the full implementation of the law.
“The current governor is yet to implement the law. PASAN and our counterpart in the judiciary have written letters to this effect to no avail. The executive should allow the legislature breathe and function optimally. This is our prayer…
“Anambra PASAN seems to be the worst in the country. The state assembly is in bad shape, nothing is working. We have no functional ICT centre, no utility vehicles, as we have one vehicle used by 29 house committees for oversight function. Workers welfare is zero and our environment is bushy. We kill snakes all the time.
“We will continue this strike until we get directive from the national body or until we get attention from the governor.”