Legislative aides to senators and members of the House of Representatives in the current National Assembly are going through hard times. They have not been paid their salaries or allowances since June this year.
The aides have also accused the management of the nation’s highest lawmaking institution of scheming to remove some of the allowances they enjoyed in past assemblies.
Some of the allowances, which the aides who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity alleged that the management was planning to withdraw from their packages, include: severance allowance, laptop allowance, duty tour allowance (DTA) among others.
They also lamented that the management had removed quarterly capacity building training programmes they used to enjoy in the past from their current conditions of service.
However, the Director of Information, National Assembly, Comrade Rawlings Agada, said that it was not within the jurisdiction of the management to decide conditions of service for either the bureaucratic staff or political appointees, where the legislative aides fall.
Agada, who spoke to our correspondent yesterday, in reaction to the allegations against the management, explained that it was the duty of the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC), to spell out the conditions of service of both the National Assembly staff and the political aides.
One of the aides, who spoke with New Telegraph on the issue, confirmed that they had not been paid salaries and allowances since June when the Ninth Assembly came into existence, which was also when they started working with their principals.
He lamented that from the appointment letter issued to them in September, the management had removed duty tour allowance, laptop allowance and training allowance, which used to be part of their entitlements in previous assemblies.
The aide also hinted that there had been speculations that the National Assembly management was planning to remove severance package, which legislative aides in past assemblies enjoyed.
He lamented that life had been very difficult for them in the last five months they had not been paid any of their entitlements, saying that many of them were virtually begging to survive.
“The information is true; since June when our new appointment ought to start counting, nobody has been paid anything. The worst is even that the management of the National Assembly has withdrawn almost all the allowances they used to pay us.
“If you see my letter of appointment, you will notice that they have removed our duty tour allowance (DTA), laptop allowance and the quarterly training we used to do as part of the conditions of our service in the National Assembly.
“I even heard that the Clerk is planning to withdraw our severance package so that at the end of the four years, when your appointment terminates, you will not have anything to hold on to, in case you don’t get another appointment.
“In the last Assembly, the training used to be every three months or, at most, every four months. That time, you discover that as you are completing one training, you are going for another one. But since June this year, when we started work with our principals, there has been nothing like that.
“To make the matter worse, the appointment letters they issued to all legislative aides bear the month of September. What is written in the letter is that your appointment is taking effect from September 2019, which means that they may not pay us for the months of June, July and August”, the aide lamented.
Another aide, who also spoke to our correspondent off the camera, equally lamented that the political staff of the National Assembly were being subjected to untold hardship under the current Assembly.
He, however, said that the National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum (NASLAF) would fight what they considered as anomalous treatment of the aides by the powers that be, saying that they would first of all seek audience with the management before embarking on any coercive action, if dialogue failed.
“This is my third time in the National Assembly. Life has never been so difficult for me before as I am seeing it today. Do you know that if you are unlucky to work with a senator or honourable member who doesn’t give money to his aides, you will be in serious mess?
“In fact, some of us are practically begging for money to be able to come to work because your boss doesn’t want to know whether you are paid or not; their concern is to see you in office every day, and some of them stay till late in the night.
“But I know that our association, the National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum (NASLAF), will definitely fight these unfavourable treatments. We don’t want to be confrontational. We will engage in dialogue, but if that won’t work, we will definitely take other measures to press home our demand”, the aide stated.
Meanwhile, reacting to the matter, the Director of Information, National Assembly, Rawlings Agada, said that the aides were misplacing their accusation.
According to him, it was the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) and not the National Assembly management that decides the conditions of service for the National Assembly civil servants and the legislative aides.
He also explained that some of the allowances mentioned by the legislative aides that they were being denied were privileges and not their rights.
“Let me correct one impression; management of the National Assembly does not take such decision; it is the National Assembly Service Commission that decides their condition of service.
“Moreover, some of the things they told you that they are being denied are privileges and not rights. For instance, the duty tour allowance and training allowance are privileges because it is only when you officially embark on a tour that you are paid such allowance. If you don’t embark on a tour, how can you be paid such?
“It is also when you go for an official training that you can talk about training allowance. So, if there is no training, there will not be any allowance to pay for a training that didn’t take place.
“I know that some of these issues were part of the things that caused a lot of problems in the last assembly, but I am sure that the Commission has decided to streamline some of the issues to avoid having problems with the aides of any category of staff.
“But for this dispensation, I don’t know what the Commission decided to approve for them, and until I get the correct information on the conditions of service of the aides in the present dispensation, I won’t be able to tell you what is there or
what is not there.
“If there are certain privileges that were attached to them before and the Commission decides to withdraw such, we should be able to differentiate between rights and privileges. Allowances are privileges and not rights.
“When you talk about laptop allowance, I have never heard of such, but I know that if you attend some training, you may be given a laptop as an empowerment and encouragement, but not that it is a right that you can start making demand that it should be paid to you.
“Again, there were some practices in the past that were against financial regulations and these are some of the things that the Commission may have decided to correct because we want to do things right”, Agada stated.