Activities at the National Assembly were grounded yesterday as workers under the aegis of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) protested against the non-payment of their salaries, allowances and promotion arrears.
The workers took over the essential areas of the legislative complex including the entrances of the two chambers and the lobby, thereby denying access to senators and their House of Representatives counterparts.
Chanting 'No Alert, No Pay!' they displayed placards with inscriptions such as 'Bank Loans Are Killing', 'Stop Omolori Now Before He Stops Nigeria's Democracy' and 'Nineteen Years Bondage On Salary Arrears'.
In a statement at the weekend, PASAN had threatened it would picket the National Assembly and the National Assembly Service Commission before embarking on an indefinite strike on December 14.
National Assembly Clerk Mohammed Sani-Omolori, however, described the workers' action as uncalled for, saying the management was already processing the payments. He told journalists during the protest: "It is a matter that has been on for some time now and we have tried to explain to them.
We approved salary increase for them. This was captured in the 2018 budget. But as it is today, it is common knowledge that the level of implementation of the 2018 budget, especially the new addition to the National Assembly, which has not been implemented... that is where we had hoped the addition would be paid."
He said that as long as the money "has not been released, there is no way we can make the payment. We told them it is wrong and we tried to prevail on them to see things in the correct way. As a matter of fact, I wrote a letter to them and I also had series of formal and informal consultations with their leadership up till yesterday (Monday), to make them back out of what is clearly an act that is not in tune with their own rules."
Asked if he was worried by the workers' action, he replied: "I am worried that in an institution where you think people should be able to look at things properly, they are not looking at it that way. That is why I am worried."
He added: "The reality on the ground is that it is not only the National Assembly that is suffering from non-release of funds. That is the reality of the Nigerian situation. So, I think we all have to be patient."
Also, Senate President Bukola Saraki assured the workers that their demand for the approval of the Consolidated Salary Structure would be implemented soon.
He said: "At the leadership of the Senate, we don't have the possibility to know if the money would be paid now. What I am committing to you is to send for the clerk and ensure we find money immediately to facilitate the implementation of the salary structure.
"We have also agreed that if you allow us, the report on the condition of service should be considered immediately. We are waiting for management to sit with us. If we can meet with management today, we will be able to communicate with you. But for that to happen, allow us to meet with management. And let them tell us in the interim where they can get money and pay you immediately."