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The jostle for the next Clerk to the National Assembly has heightened with Osun and Yobe States seeking to provide the successor of the incumbent, Alhaji Sani-Omolori.
Sani-Omolori should have retired in February based on the civil service conditions of service, but he has been hanging on because of a resolution of the 8th National Assembly which increased retirement age to 65 years or 40 years in service, whichever comes first.
The National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) is opposed to the legislature’s action, as it argued that the tenure elongation resolution was not binding in law and should not have been hurriedly gazetted by the management on May 28th, 2019.
The Commission also discovered that the conditions of service were altered by the 8th National Assembly to fit into the plans of the management of the Assembly.
It said it would stick to the conditions of service in Public Service with the applicable retirement age of 60 years and 35 years in service.
Sources said the race appears to be between the most senior management staff in the hierarchy – the current Permanent Secretary, Estate and Works/Procurement, Olatunde Ojo Amos (Osun State) and the Permanent Secretary, Legal Matters in the National Assembly, Bala Mohammed Yabani (Yobe State).
Although the odds favour Amos on the strength of his rich experience as a civil servant, some forces opposed to his candidature claim that he is not a lawyer and is therefore not versed in legislative management.
Those for Amos have however cited the case of a former Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa who was not from the Legal Corps of the National Assembly but used his administrative skill to manage the system.
They claimed that a Clerk to the National Assembly only requires sound administrative skill which the Osun candidate has in abundance.
Investigation revealed that there are also hurdles Yabani must scale because he is from Yobe State like the Chairman of the National Assembly, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, and the Chairman of the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC), Engr. Ahmed Kadi Amshi.
A top source said: “By providence, the Chairman of the National Assembly, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, is from Yobe State and NASC chairman is also from Yobe State.
“Conceding the Clerk to the National Assembly to Yobe will mean a state will be controlling three key appointments in the National Assembly. It is a negation of the federal character principle.
“Although the Senate President and others attained their statuses on merit, the 1999 Constitution makes provision for the application of Federal Character Principle. And to have effective checks and balances, the Clerk to the National Assembly ought to go to another geopolitical zone.
“Also, promoting Yabani above Amos will create distortion in the system, which is purely a public service structure. It means junior staff will now be aspiring to displace their senior once a precedent is laid.
“If Amos is picked, Yabani automatically becomes the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly.
“The argument of using legal background to edge out Amos might not hold water because the National Assembly has a virile legal unit that can guide him on issues. The position of the Clerk to the National Assembly is purely administrative.”
Another source added: “Attention should be paid to the qualities needed to be the Clerk to the National Assembly. Yabani may be junior to Amos, but he has the legal background for the office.
“In legislative business, the Clerk to the National Assembly must be grounded in law as it was the case during the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly when Dr. Bukola Saraki emerged the President of the Senate.
“It is not an ethnic matter; it is about the right background needed for the job. And do not forget that in terms of federal appointments, Yobe State is disadvantaged.”
According to the original nominal roll of National Assembly sighted by The Nation the most senior officer left in active service will be the Permanent Secretary, Procurement, Estate and Works, Amos Ojo, with file number 4843, born in 1963 and due for retirement in 2023.
Others next in rank are the current Clerk of the House of Representatives, Patrick Giwa from Edo, who was born on 25 November, 1960; Bala Yabani Mohammed from Yobe State with file number 154 and next in rank to Amos Ojo was born in 1962.
A management staff said: “Ordinarily if not for politics, according to the NASC Act, 2014, the political leadership of the National Assembly has no role by law in the appointment of the Clerk to the National Assembly except the National Assembly Service Commission.
“ Section 19 (1) and 6(a) of the NASC Act 2014, empowers the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) to set rules and regulations, including fixing of salary, promotion, conditions of service, issues of discipline, tenure and/or operational guidelines for the conduct of the staff of the National Assembly.
“There is also no basis for tenure elongation for Omolori because the Public Service conditions of service have been applied to some of his contemporaries.
“From the nominal roll of the national Assembly, Ayewoh Nelson with file number 1669, who is the current Clerk of the Senate, is expected also proceed on retirement leave ahead of his retirement in August, 2020.
Others who have left service in line with the Public Service retirement age are Adamu Abdulkadir – former Clerk of House of Representatives with file number 1689; Adem Daniel – former Permanent Secretary, Legal Services; Bukoye Lasisi – former Permanent Secretary, Finance Services; Moma Efeturei – former Permanent Secretary, Health Services; Dibal Ishaku – former Permanent Secretary, Research and Information; Mamud Abubakar – former Permanent Secretary, Human Resources.
A source said: “Lawmakers, legislative aides and NASS civil servants await the final verdict of the commission to put to rest the controversy generated by the tenure elongation move by a few top National Assembly management staff and to pick a new Clerk to the National Assembly.
“The jostle for the Clerk to the National Assembly is now between Osun and Yobe states.”
With the position of the commission, the tenure elongation for Omolori and 150 others looks foreclosed.
The confirmation of the Acting Clerk of the House of Representatives, Patrick Giwa, as a substantive holder during the week was said to be part of the foreclosure since Giwa will retire in August.
A source in NASC said: “There is really no room for tenure elongation and the commission has sent a memorandum to the leadership of the National Assembly on this.
“The Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori joined the public service in February 1985 as Legal Officer of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited.
“He later joined the service to the National Electric Power Authority, Lagos as Legal officer from January 1990 to January 1991. He transferred his service to the National Assembly as Principal Legal Officer in February 1991.
“After spending the mandatory 35 years in service, there is no basis for clinging to tenure elongation based on a resolution of the 8th National Assembly.
“As a commission, we are out to ensure fairness and equity. Omolori has paid his dues and he has served well, but he must respect the conditions of service upon which he transferred his service to the National Assembly in 1991.
“We are actually looking beyond Omolori; we are shopping for a new Clerk to the National Assembly.”
Investigation revealed that the choice of the next NASS Clerk is being discussed by the National Assembly leadership and NASC.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and other leaders of the National Assembly during the week had an inconclusive session on the choice of the next Clerk.