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Workers shut down state Hs/Assembly over financial autonomy

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By Olisemeka Obeche, Buchi Iwuji

Legislative activities were grounded and state assembly complexes locked up across many state capitals on Tuesday as members of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) kickstarted their indefinite nationwide strike.

Orient Daily gathered that the industrial showdown which saw most state legislators forced to return home in disappointment was called by the union to protest the failure of government to implement the Financial Autonomy Act 2018 and Presidential Order 10.

The parliamentary workers commenced the nationwide strike two weeks after they staged a protest at the gate of the National Assembly in Abuja. During the demonstration held on March 9, they threatened to continue the protest and occupy all State Houses of Assembly if their demands were not met. The workers also called on the members of the National Assembly to take the necessary steps to ensure the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary.

The exercise witnessed partial compliance in South East states. In Abia, Ebonyi and Anambra, parliamentary workers merely locked their offices. This paper, however, gathered that PASAN members in Imo state, stormed the Imo State House of Assembly as early as 7am to prevent the Speaker and other lawmakers from gaining entrance into the complex, in compliance with national directive.

Speaking to newsmen, the chairman, Comrade Victor Nnadi, decried the failure of the federal government to meet the demand of the workers which, according to him, was the call for full implementation of the legislative financial autonomy.

Nnadi explained: “our demand is the full implementation of the legislative financial autonomy that is in line with the constitutional provisions as well as backed up with an executive order number 10 of 2020 which was signed by the president. We feel that if we get this financial autonomy, it will help to boast democracy and everybody will be better for it.”

He explained that efforts to make the government implement the law had failed, hence their decision to embark on industrial showdown. “All this while, we have been negotiating on this demand. Even in 2019, the president set up a negotiation committee. They worked and submitted their reports but, up till now, nothing happened. Already, we have exhausted all the extant labour laws for strike action. We gave them 21-day ultimatum, nothing happened. We gave them 14 days, nothing happened; and we gave them seven days which expired yesterday. These ultimatums are being addressed to Mr. President and copied to all relevant authorities.

“Mind you, this strike is a national action and not just in Imo state. So, we are complying in accordance with the directives from our national headquarters. But here in Imo, we feel with the speaker, who is new and a good man. He has really shown us that truly, he cares for the staff welfare. But since this is a national issue, we can’t do otherwise. We tried to reach him and explain things to him and I guess he understands.”

Reacting, the House Committee chairman on information, ethics and privileges, Johnson Duru, assured that the issue would soon be addressed.  He said, “President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government is very much sensitive to the plight and welfare of the entire Nigerian workers. And I can assure that he will look into the issue once again and find a lasting solution to it.

“We only advise that the protesting workers do not take laws into their hands or do anything that will breach the existing peace and order in the state.

“As you are aware, this is a nationwide issue and not peculiar to Imo state.”

The chairman of PASAN in Ogun state, Mr James Obanla, further disclosed that all legislative activities at state assembly complexes would be grounded indefinitely until their demands were met. “The strike is indefinite, businesses among the three arms of government will be affected,” he said.

In Abia, Bauchi, Enugu, Imo, parliamentary workers commence the indefinite strike.

In Oyo, legislative workers shut all the entrance gates of the State Assembly complex in compliance with the directive of the National leadership of the association. The protesting workers, dressed in their official uniform carried placards and sang solidarity songs to express their agitation against the continuous suppression of the legislative arm of government under the executive arm.

Some of the grievances as expressed on the placards read “Give us our autonomy. Enough is enough”, “We say no to executive slavery”, “Legislative arm is a separate arm of government”, “AGF, implement Order 10, 2020”, “Legislative financial autonomy is a constitutional right,” among others.

It was a similar situation in Gombe where union members stormed the state assembly complex carrying placards as they also locked the assembly gate. PASAN members blocked the gate of the assembly chanting solidarity songs and carrying placards, some reading “No financial autonomy, no legislation,” “I support independence of the legislative arm.”

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