By Ifeanyi Nwoko
Legislative Aides to lawmakers on Tuesday stage a wide protest in the National Assembly over delays in payment of their salaries and allowances.
The protesters who carried placards and obituary pictures said they were protesting the death of a legislative aide to the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Yusuff Lasun.
The protesters said that the aide, Hassan Abiodun died because he was unable to pay the sum of N165,000 as cost for surgery for appendicitis.
Speaking to newsmen during the protest, one of the aides, Mr Dayo Faduba said that if the salary had not been delayed, the deceased would have afforded to pay the hospital dues.
He added that the late aide died when the appendix ruptured one day after the due date of his surgery and he eventually gave up on Friday June 9.
Reading a press statement signed by Lawson Oviasogie, Faduba said that the delay in salaries had become common since the commencement of the 8th National Assembly.
“We are here today with heavy hearts to mourn the untimely and unfortunate death of one of our colleagues, Hassan Abiodun (ltalo).
“Even as we mourn, we see clearly that his death MAY have been averted. He died while waiting for salary to operate his appendicitis.
“Hassan is a victim of a flawed and unjust system and the unjust conditions of Aides in the National Assembly,” he said.
The aides berated the management of the National Assembly for moving the payment account of the aides from a known national commercial bank to a “microfinance” bank “masquerading as a commercial bank”.
NAN reports that SunTrust Bank is registered as a Mortgage Bank.
He said that since the management of the National Assembly started operating with Sun Trust Bank, payment of salaries had always been delayed.
He therefore also blamed the bank for the death of their colleague adding that if they had paid on time, Hassan may not have died.
“This delay in payment, which has been the hallmark of Alhaji Sani Omolori – led administration, is occasioned partly by the CNA unilateral decision to domicile Aides salary account with a mushroom and unknown financial institution known as Sun Trust Bank.
“From all indications, it is manifest that Sun Trust Bank does not have the capacity and infrastructure to handle the volume of transaction the CNA has foisted on them.
“Indeed, we are convinced that the decision to domicile our salaries with Sun Trust Bank is motivated by ulterior motive aimed at bolstering the financial standing of the Micro Finance bank masquerading as a commercial institution.
“The delayed payment of Aides salary is not an isolated incidence. Rather, it is a crescendo of series of actions from the management that highlights the utter contempt, disregard and disdain with which the National Assembly Management holds Aides.
“Some instances will suffice. lt is on record that unlike in other Assemblies, the current management has refused to pay the quarterly Duty
“Tour Allowance (DTA) and Trainings of Aides for 24 months amounting to 8th quarters and no reason has been adduced for this unconscionable dereliction. Perhaps, to perpetuate the regime of subjugation, the management has shown more than a passing interest in who leads the National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum (NASSLAF).
The protesters made their demands very clear to the Management of the Assembly. Their demands include:
1. Timely and regular payment of our monthly salary;
2. Ancillary to (1) above is the need to move Aides Salary account away from Sun Trust bank to a ’proper’ bank;
3. Payment of our outstanding quarterly Duty Tour Allowances (DTA) and Trainings;
4. Allowing Aides the freedom and environment to choose a leader to pilot the affairs of NASSLAF.
Meanwhile, the protesters met with the President of the Senate Dr. Bukola Saraki as he arrived for plenary on Tuesday.
Saraki who gave them a brief audience promised to wade into the matter while also directing his Deputy Chief of Staff, Gbenga Makanjuola to meet with the aides and get details of their grouse.
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the President of the Senate on New Media, Mr Bamikole Omishore told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that Saraki had already summoned the management of the National Assembly over the matter.
Omisore added that the President of the Senate was unhappy with the development and is poised to get to the root of the matter.
NAN has been unable to reach the office of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives for comments.
By Ifeanyi Nwoko