Senate makes u-turn on service extension for CNA, others

A week after stepping down the bill seeking for extension of years of service and age of retirement for staffers of the National Assembly, the Senate on Thursday, passed it for third reading as earlier done by the House of Representatives.

The red chamber had on Thursday last week when the bill seeking for its concurrence on extension of years of service for staffers of the National Assembly from 35 to 40 years and age of retirement from 60 to 65 years, stood it down on account of stiff opposition against the proposal.

Some of the Senators who kicked against the proposal were the Senate Whip, Ali Ndume (APC Borno South), Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (APGA Abia South), Senator Mohammed Muntari Dandutse (APC Katsina South) etc.

Senator Abaribe had in kicking against the bill said, “All the arguments made by the leader for this bill to be concurred to, by the Senate to me, do not add up . What is special about a Director of Finance in the National Assembly from Directors of Finance in the Ministries and Parastatals.

“The extension of years of service done for the teachers, lecturers and Judicial officers through laws passed to that effect by the Senate and the House of Representatives, are understandable but that cannot be in anyway, rationalised for National Assembly staff.

“They are civil servants like those in the Ministries and Parastatals and should not be treated outside the public service rule. I am against this bill and admonish the Senate to be cautious with the proposal.

Senator Ndume in his own objection to the bill said, “Mr President, if secret ballot is to be conducted among staff of the National Assembly in the Chamber with us now on the bill, many of them, will vote against it We need to be very cautious”.

But representing the bill on Thursday, the leader of the Senate , Senator Opeyemi Bamidele ( APC Ekiti Central), said extension of years of service of National Assembly staff from 35 to 40 or retirement age from 60 to 65, would help to protect institutional memory needed in as far as parliamentary practices and procedures are concerned.

According to him, years of service and retirement age proposed for staffers of the National Assembly in the bill are in line with global practices.

He specifically mentioned the United States of America and United Kingdom as countries where such such years of service and retirement age are pegged for parliamentary workers.

After the Senate leader’s presentation, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Jibrin Barau who presided over the session, further softened the ground for passage of the bill by explaining to senators that all issues on it, have been cleared.

“Harmonised retirement age of staff of the National Assembly which this bill seeks for, would when concurred to, by the Senate , entrench competence, institutional memory etc, in line with international best practices,” he said.

No senator objected to the bill, which made its clause by clause consideration and passage by the Senate, expeditiously done.

The Deputy President of the Senate however, set up seven- man conference committee to collaborate with those from the House of Representatives for final passage by the National Assembly.

The conference committee is chaired by the Leader of the Senate, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, while Senators Ifeanyi Ubah, Adamu Aliero, Asuquo Ekpenyong etc, are members.