Shagari prevented legislators from hijacking NASS bureaucracy – CNA

The late President Shehu Shagari prevented serving members of the National Assembly from making themselves members of the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC), said the Clerk to the National Assembly, Architect Ojo Olatunde Amos.

Making the disclosure, Thursday, while having in audience delegation of the Committee on Administration and Human Resources of Ghana Parliamentary Service Board, the CNA said when the idea of National Assembly Service Commission was mooted during the Second republic, serving lawmakers wanted to be members of the Commission .

According to him, the then Senate Leader, late Senator Olusola Saraki, made the proposal to President Shehu Shagari which he however turned down by asking the then serving Senators and members of the House of Representatives, to choose whether to be members of the commission and forfeit their legislative seats or remained as serving lawmakers. 

He said, “Between 1979 and 1985, politicians tended to act in the military fashion rather than exhibiting democratic traits. 

“For instance, in 1981 when the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria initiated a bill for an Act to establish the National Assembly Service Commission, the then Senate leader, Sen. Olusola Saraki was said to have proposed that membership of the Commission be composed of Senators and members of the House of Representatives serving at the time. 

“When the proposal got to President Shehu Shagari, he asked the Members of the National Assembly to choose between being members of the National Assembly and members of the National Assembly Service Commission .

“However the Legislative proposal for the commission’s establishment did not see the light of the day during the Shagari’s administration, perhaps due to the sudden military takeover of power in December 1983.” 
The Clerk who went down the memory lane on how Parliamentary bureaucracy in Nigeria was treated like an appendage of the executive arm of government until year 2000 when the NASC was created, told the Ghanaian delegation that both the National Assembly and its operational bureaucracies are now independent institutions on their own.

He said, “In  1983 the National   Assembly was again suspended until 1993 when General Ibrahim Babangida ousted Buhari. Before then, General Ibrahim Babangida had in 1988 through decree 48 of 1988 directed the creation of departments in various ministries of government of government and National Assembly was created as a department in the presidency. 

“Sadly, whenever the military took power and set aside the constitution, staff of the National Assembly who usually were drawn from different agencies of the executive returned to their parent ministries hence there was nothing to build the structure of the legislative bureaucracy. 

“With Abacha as head of state and the suspension of the political arm of the National Assembly, the national assembly bureaucracy was seen as one of the departments in the villa following decree 48 of 1988. The staff of the legislature were appointed through the office of the Head of Civil service of the federation, while the national assembly’s official address was the presidency. 

“The bureaucracy head of the national assembly was addressed as director. General/Clerk designate unlike now that the head is addressed as Clerk to the National Assembly who is constitutionally made the  Chief Administrator and  Accounting Officer of the Federal Parliament .

“In between the military interregnums and following therefrom, the legislature was treated more or less like an appendage of the executive arm, not as an independent arm of government in its own rights.

“The institution’s functions, powers and privileges were constantly usurped. In no area is this challenge more felt than in the bureaucracy of the legislature. The letter-head of the national assembly bureaucracy bore the insignia of the “presidency”.

“What this implies is that until the return of democracy in 1999 and the creation of the NASC in 2000, national assembly bureaucracy was not totally independent of the Executive arm.”

He assured the Ghanaian delegation led by Hon Johnson Asiedu Nketiah that processes and procedures guiding the Nigerian model of independent Parliament and its bureaucracy, will be availed to them.

Earlier in his remarks, the leader of the delegation listed areas of lessons they want to learn as financial autonomy of the legislature from the executive, how resolutions made by the parliament on public accounts are implemented, difficulties in relationship between executive and legislature .