Barely 10 days for the 8th National Assembly to adjourn sine die, serving lawmakers at both chambers are moving out their belongings (both personal and official) from their various offices ahead of inauguration of the 9th NASS on the 10th or 11th of June, 2019. Taiye Odewale reports.
When party endorsement was ignored
As the popular saying goes, “anything that has a beginning, must definitely have an end”, and this is about to play out for the 8th National Assembly which took off on very dramatic cum political way at both chambers on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at inauguration with emergence of presiding officers not endorsed or supported by national leadership of their party.
First to take off on that dramatic template on the said date was the senate, where Senator Bukola Saraki (then of APC Kwara Central now PDP), emerged as Senate President as against Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC Yobe North) earlier endorsed for the position by the then John Odigie-Oyegun led national leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Not only did Saraki emerge against the wish and consent of the then national leadership of the APC, but also worked in alliance with senators – elect on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Senator Ike Ekweremadu (PDP Enugu West) to emerge as deputy president of the 8th senate against Senator George Akume (APC Benue North West), earlier penciled down for the position by the then APC national leadership.
Though similar scenario played out in the House of Representatives where Hon Yakubu Dogara emerged as speaker as against Hon Femi Gbajabiamila endorsed by the national leadership of the party but there was no bipartisan leadership arrangement as put up by the Saraki- led senate with attendant attacks within and beyond .
The attacks, which included the trial of Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on charges that bordered on alleged false assets declaration from 2015 to 2018 , alleged forgery of the senate rule book trial in 2016 etc, led to counter offensive from the senate against the presidency in particular and the executive arm of government in general.
Little wonder that President Muhammadu Buhari penultimate week at the Presidential Villa confessed to the leadership of the 8th National Assembly that the frosty relationship between the executive arm of government under his leadership and the legislative arm of government led by Saraki and Dogara, impacted negatively on governance, saying ” such relationship should not re-occur in the 9th National Assembly .
“Relations between the executive and the legislature were not the best in the 8th National Assembly. I sincerely hope each one of us will do his utmost to ensure there is a better working relationship between these two arms of government in the Ninth Assembly so that we can serve the people better.
“The principal task of the National Assembly is to cooperate with the executive so that together, we can fashion policies that will lift our people out of poverty and out of illiteracy.
“I appeal to the distinguished senators and honourable members to subordinate all personal interests and ambitions to the imperative of working for the common good of our people”, he said.
Wind down begins
Meanwhile, with exactly two weeks to the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly (NASS) and about 11 days to the end of the eclipsing 8th National Assembly, almost all the 469 serving senators and members of the House of Representatives have vacated their various offices to pave way for installation of new sets of settees, air conditioners, water filters, plasma televisions, photocopiers, printers etc.
Evacuation of such office items by the serving lawmakers at both chambers openly done throughout last week, were sequel to directives issued to that effect by the Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh, to serving senators and his counterpart for the House of Representatives, Edhere Basil, to serving honourable members.
Lawmakers pay N375,000 for 3 plasma tv, refrigerators etc
The separate directives, according aides of some of the serving lawmakers, were dated May 12, 2019.
Specifically in the senate, the clerk in his own circular to that effect, directed either the secretary or senior legislative aide (SLA) of each of the serving senators, to hand over the keys of their various offices to office management unit latest by 5:00pm tomorrow, Tuesday, May 28, 2019.
The legislative aides, who pleaded for anonymity, informed our reporter that the three sets of setees, three refrigerators, three plasma television, three water filters, one sharp photocopier and printer as well as office rugs etc, were allowed to be taken away by each of the senators at give away price of N375,000.00.
The money the legislative aides disclosed further, would be deducted from the severance packages to be given to each of the 469 federal lawmakers, who served in the about to end 8th National Assembly.
“What is happening by seeing us and others, removing all the office items for onward delivery to our various bosses at home, is not looting or stealing but what has been officially approved by the management of the National Assembly as contained in different circulars issued to that effect by Clerks of both chambers.
“While our bosses here in the senate are to pay N375,000.00 as give away price for all the items, their counterparts in the House of Representatives are to pay N350,000.00 for their own take home office items”, stated one of the aides.
On why the management resorted to the new model of ending and take off of legislative life on office accommodation, a senior management staff who equally pleaded for anonymity, said problems of malfunctioning of the office gadgets from old to new legislators as experienced in recent past, necessitated the new policy.
According to him, the usual two weeks intervals between the time offices are vacated by outgoing lawmakers for new ones, have been discovered to be periods when most of the office equipment and facilities , developed problems, the cost of repair or replacement which often runs into financial figures of buying new ones entirely .
“For the settees, many of the new lawmakers use to complain that forms or springs of the inherited ones were weak, the same way many of them often complain of malfunctioning of refrigerators, air conditioners and even photocopy machines inherited.
“As a result of replacement upon replacements of the office equipments for new lawmakers at the beginning of any new assembly, the cost of which often surpasses, buying new ones entirely; the management felt that the new policy of lawmakers whether returning or not, going away with equipments used in a particular Assembly is the best.
“To the management, the arrangement is a win-win one because money for such gadgets will be deducted from the severance packages of each of the lawmakers, the totality of which will be added to money set aside for procuring new ones for offices of the lawmakers at the beginning of a new assembly”, he explained.
He said that presiding and principal officers at both chambers, totalling 20, are not affected by the quit notice as they are expected to continue operating from their various offices pending when both the 8th National Assembly will adjourn sine die.
The presiding and rincipal officers are the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and Deputy Speaker, Hon Yusuf Lasun.
Others are the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, Senate Whip, Olusola Adeyeye. Deputy Whip, Francis Alimikhena, Senate Minority Leader, Biodun Olujimi, Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Bwacha, Minority Whip, Philip Tanimu Aduda and Deputy Minority Whip, Emmanuel Paulker .
Also in this category are all the eight principal officers in the House of Representatives from the House Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila to the Deputy Minority Whip, Hon Binta Bello