Aggrieved workers of the National Assembly yesterday took their grievances a notch higher, as they cut off water and power supply to the seat of legislature, paralysing business activities in the process.
With this development, there are ominous signs that the presentation of the N8.7trillion 2019 budget by President Muhammadu Buhari, to the joint sitting of the National Assembly tomorrow, may have come under serious threat.
These developments followed the decision by the workers, under the aegis of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria, to make good their threat to begin a four-day warning strike which started yesterday.
However, the governing All Progressives Congress has asked the NASS leadership to save the nation of national embarrassment by acceding to the workers’ demands, even as the Senate assured that the logjam would be resolved.
The workers, who are demanding mainly for the payment of arrears of 28% increase in their salaries since 2010, stormed the National Assembly in the early hours of yesterday blocking all entrances into the complex, preventing lawmakers, their aides and visitors from accessing it.
They have also cut off essential services like power and water supply; effectively crippling any form of activity within the premises which have made all the 15 commercial banks operating at different segments of the complex to hurriedly close down .
Also affected by the total paralysis of activities are indoor eateries within the complex, whose staff have been told to call it a day by their various management due to lack of electricity and water.
The aggrieved workers, had two weeks ago, shut down the National Assembly stopping lawmakers from sitting, and blaming the management for their plight, and insisting on the removal of the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Sani Omolori.
Although no official statement has come from the management as at the time of filing this report, but the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan (APC Yobe North), assured journalists yesterday that the issue would be resolved.
The Senate Leader, who spoke to journalists in his office yesterday, disclosed that the leadership of both chambers and management of the National Assembly planned an emergency meeting for way out of the problem.
“I am not assigned now by the entire leadership of the National Assembly to comment on the shutdown, but an emergency meeting will be held today (yesterday) for quick and lasting solutions to the crisis,” he said.
Management blames Executive
The CNA, Mr. Omolori, had in the wake of agitation by the aggrieved parliamentary staff, dropped the blame at the doorsteps of the executive for not cash backing approval given to the 28% salary increase as captured in the 2018 budget .
Preparatory to the ongoing strike, the staff, had on Friday last week, issued a statement, threatening to embark on a four-day warning strike beginning from yesterday.
In a letter of notification sent to the leadership of the National Assembly on Saturday, the association stated that all its members would stay at home for four days, beginning from Monday this week to Thursday.
The letter was signed by the association’s Chairman, Musa Bature Muhammed.
President Buhari had on Thursday last week, in separate letters to both the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, sought for the hours of 12:00noon tomorrow for the budget presentation.
Save Nigeria embarrassment, Saraki, Dogara urged
Meanwhile, the APC has described as “shameful development in the National Assembly,” a situation where parliamentary workers shut down the legislative complex following the commencement of their four-day strike, even as it challenged the NASS leadership to save the country from embarrassment.
APC, while reminding Nigerians that such was more witnessed under the Peoples Democratic Party administration, said if the Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara had focused on their core legislative business and operations rather than resort to subterfuge with the sole intent of undermining the APC government, the welfare of parliamentary workers would not have been taken for granted.
In a statement signed late last night in Abuja by the APC National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, the party claimed the PDP’s 16-year rule was characterised by such incidences of unpaid salaries, ghost workers and a shocking disdain for workers’ welfare.
“While the minority PDP usurpers who parade themselves as the National Assembly leadership have promptly paid themselves their allowances, National Assembly workers under the umbrella of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) are owed their duly earned 28 per cent increase in their salaries since 2010.
“Nigerians will recall that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in one of its first actions as a government approved federal government bailouts to states to settle salaries owed workers. That is the stuff of people-centred governance which the APC represents. A worker deserves his wages!
“We have now learnt that the parliamentary workers have blocked all entrances into the National Assembly complex and cut off essential services like power and water supply; effectively crippling any form of activity within the premises.
“The APC calls on the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara to do the needful by attending to the demands of the parliamentary workers. The welfare of workers is a cardinal policy of the APC administration. We, therefore, call on the PDP led National Assembly to save the country this national embarrassment.”