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We’ll not give up until our demands are met, protesting legislative aides insist

Members of the National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum (NASSLAF), Wednesday morning, continued with their protest, insisting that they would not give up the struggle until their demands were met.

The aggrieved workers, who had gathered at the entrance to the lobby adjoining the Senate and the House of Representatives chambers at about 10:30 am, began the protest just at 11 am.

With different placards bearing inscriptions such as: ”We Are Aides Not Slaves,” ”DTAs Have Not Been Paid Since 2015, WHY?” ”Omolori Pay Us Our Money And Budgeted Entitlements, ” the protesters sang various solidarity songs to press home their demands.

One of them said: ”No retreat, no surrender. We can no longer pay our children’s school fees. We will continue until will get the alert.”

Another one said: ”Without us, they cannot do anything; we are the engine room. We can no longer cater for our families again, pay us our money.”

At about 11:10 am when Sen Shehu Sani (APC-Kaduna) entered the assembly, the aggrieved workers raised their voices chanting: ”Solidarity forever, we shall always fight for our right.”

One of the demonstrators, a male member, accosted Sen Sani, urging him to intervene in their plight.

”Distinguished Senator, the National Assembly leadership has been siphoning our money. We need your intervention comrade,” he said.

The lawmaker, who did not utter a word, however, received the information with a smile and a nod.

They continued with their songs as House Deputy Speaker, Lasun Yusuf, arrived in the assembly.

At about 11:20 am when the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, came in, the protesters, raising their voices, sang: ”My Struggle, My Struggle, Freedom Come.”

Speaking, the Public Relations Officer of NASSLAF, Mr. Yusuf Sikiru, stressed that the protest would continue until their demands are met.

”It is the continuation of the protest because our demands have not been met and we will continue the struggle until they pay us.

”We have had several meetings with them and up till now, nothing has come out. Our children are suffering, most of us cannot pay our bills and this is the only work we have,” he said.

According to Sikiru, the total amount of money owing us is over N5 billion.

Also speaking, the Assistant Secretary-General of the association, Mr. Banny Elijah, who said their members are about 3, 200, explained that for each tenure, there is a budget for legislative aides.

According to him, every legislator is entitled to five legislative aides, except the principal officers that may have up to a 100 aides.

”And each of these legislative aides, according to their terms of employment, is expected to draw salaries and allowances as applicable to civil servants.

”These salaries, as they say, include the Duty Tour Allowances (DTAs), training, work tools, etc.

”Unfortunately, since the inception of this tenure, we have not enjoyed such provisions. As I speak to you, none of this category of legislative aides has been trained over these three years.

”Because of the nature of our engagement which is a short, temporary engagement, if you don’t train the calibre of these legislative aides.

“How do you expect them to assist their principals in the onerous duty of making laws for the good of the Nigerian people.

”Secondly, they are entitled to DTAs because at least three times a month, they interact with their constituents on behalf of their principals and most time, they go with their personal money.

”These monies are supposed to be refunded or to be paid under what is called the duty tour allowances. For three years now, we have not enjoyed such allowances,” he said.

Elijah said it was disheartening that these allowances were not only budgeted in the various budget, ”but each time they keep telling us that the money has not been released from the Ministry of Finance.

”And we find this very ridiculous because if they can release the allowances of our principals, there is no way they will not release that of the legislative aides.”

He said each year, the money amounted to N1.2 billion.

Besides, he said training, which is supposed to be quarterly, has about N2.5 billion allocated to it.

”This is allocated and accommodated in the budget. Forgetting to the fourth year now, we have not enjoyed one of such training. and the question is where is this money that is budgeted for this?

He said the legislative aides also engaged in a lot of research work to be able to give a meaningful contribution to purposeful laws that would have an impact on the Nigerian people.

”We are expected to be given a laptop each on resumption. As I speak to you, these laptops had been ordered over three years ago and Locked up in the store.

”But somebody is telling us they have not given them to us because they have not finished paying the contractor.

”The question is, the money that was allocated for the laptops if it was enough to buy them, are you telling me now that the money that was used to pay the laptops is now the problem?

”Now, if these laptops are locked up for three years in the store, who eventually benefits from it?” he asked.

Elijah, who said the association had met with the Clark of the National Assembly, Mr. Mohammed Sani-Omolori, several times, called on all Nigerians to come to their aid.

”They have even branded us as those who are sold out; they said we have been bribed and all manner of allegations. This is because we have told them the truth.

He corroborated that as long as they were yet to be paid, the protest would continue.

”And we know that in doing this also, the legislative functions and duty would suffer because we are supposed to be the engine rooms of the legislators.

”If I can’t take care of my immediate needs as a worker, I can’t even commute to the office, I can’t take care of my children who are thrown out of school, what do you expect?

”Many of us are on sick bed as I speak with you and we have lost some of our members as a result of this haphazard payment,” he said.

The legislative aides, in their numbers, began the protest on Tuesday, Oct 9, as the lawmakers resumed from their annual vacation