By Peter OSSAI, Abuja
It is no longer news that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki is currently engaged in a legal battle to save both his political and public life at the Code of Conduct Tribunal(CCT). However, he has just opened yet another battle ground with the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC), though this time over the appointment of a new Clerk to the National Assembly(CNA).
The National Assembly Service Commission, which is the statutory body saddled with the responsibility of staff appointment, discipline and promotion for the federal legislative arm, had earlier last week announced the appointment of the clerk of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Mohammed Sani-Omolori as Clerk to the National Assembly, in acting capacity.
However, in a quick responses, Saraki, wrote to the Commission asking it to reverse the appointment of Sani-Omolori so as to allow for further consultations on the appointment.
However, in what is seen as defiance to Saraki, the NASC insisted that the appointment of Sani-Omolori was not only properly carried out, but in full compliance with assembly service guidelines.
The commission is also insisting that Saraki’s preferred candidate, who is presently Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly (DCNA), Mr. Benedict Efeturi is due to retire this year, in fact the commission argued that he has less than six months to be in service, as such, not suitable to be handed the appointment, a situation nationalTRAIL learnt Saraki is not comfortable over.
Our correspondent further learnt that the commission is standing its ground on the matter insisting that , both Efeturi and Sani-Omolori got promoted into the clerk cadre of the service on the same date, precisely on March 25 2010.
The legislative service body’s position is contained in a memorandum from its Executive Chairman, Dr. Adamu Mohammed Fika to the 440th meeting of the Commission which held on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.
According to the memoranda which reads: “That Mr. Benedict Efeturi, who presently act as the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly will also proceed on his three months terminal
leave on 2nd August, 2016, days before the end of the current clerk’s terminal leave.
“That it is neither expedient nor in conformity with convention and practices of the Service for an officer who has less than six months left to retire from the service to act in a higher office” “That Mr. Mohammed A. Sani-Omolori, the present Clerk of the House of Representatives who therefore remains the next most senior officer in the services of the National Assembly will remain in service till 2021.”
As a result this, Mr. Sani-Omolori was on Wednesday last week named the acting Clerk to the National Assembly via in a letter by the Executive Chairman of the NASC.
Following this however, Saraki in a letter dated April 21, by his Chief of Staff, Senator Isa Galaudu, addressed to chairman of the commission, the senate president, who is also the chairman of the National Assembly, said the appointment did not follow due process, as such should be reversed.
He noted that the Commission should have first considered Ben Efeturi and not Sani-Omolori, for the position to replace Salisu Maikasuwa, the current CNA who is retiring soon.
“The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were informed that Mr. Efeturi was not considered for the appointment because he was not duly appointed as Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly.
“On further enquiry, we found he was duly appointed by the National Assembly Service Commission vide Extract from Minutes of its 403rd Meeting held on Friday, 21st November,2014.
“From the foregoing, you have misled and misinformed the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“Consequently, I am directed by His Excellency, the Senate President, to inform you that the letter appointing Mr. Sani Omolori as Acting Clerk of the National Assembly, be withdrawn immediately for further consultations.”
The present clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa who is due for retirement on August 14, 2016 will be proceeding on terminal leave on May 14, 2016.
But a source at the National Assembly who do not want to be mentioned in print, told nationalTRAIL correspondent that the real reason behind the Senate President’s letter to the commission was not for the reason been advanced, but for other motives that the source alleged to be ulterior.
The source further alleged that the insistence by the Chairman of the National Assembly is purely to ‘settle’ Mr. Efeturi for his past services of loyalties.
“On the face of it, it appears as if the Senate president letter is meant to respect seniority, and due process in the appointment, but it is far from it, especially those of them who were in the last senate, are they not benefiting from the allegation of forging senate rules?. The source alleged.
Speaking further, the source insist saying; “ I can tell you that this is nothing but about time to reward loyalty of the man by the leadership of the senate.”
Several efforts to speak with both the Chief of Staff to the President of the Senate, and his Special Assistant on Media, Yusuph Olaniyonu, wasn’t possible as at press time, however, when contacted, the Chief Press Secretary, Chuks Okocha, said that he wasn’t in Abuja as at the time of our call.
He however denied all the allegations, insisting that the President of the Senate’s letter authored by his Chief of Staff was self explanatory, saying nothing more than that, and that anything outside was simply an imagination.
But a top personnel at the service commission told our correspondent that the issue of appointing a clerk to National Assembly, or any other key appointment at the federal legislative body was a public service matter and not political, purely based on critical considerations, as such, it should be insulated from political interference.
He said apart from the fact that the appointment followed due process, it is also in conformity with the principles of federal character.
“I think the senate president is getting it wrong all together. Go and look at the National Assembly Service Act, 2014; specifically section 6 (8) provides that ‘in exercising its powers to make appointments or exercise disciplinary control over persons, the Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any authority or person” He said,
The source also maintained that the commission did not in any way violate due process in the appointment, saying Everything was done in line with the law establishing the Commission.
An investigation by nationalTRAIL further revealed that with strict application of the federal character principle, Mr. Efeturi is not qualified for consideration for the position, owing that he is from Delta state, where both the current Clerk of the Senate, the Deputy Clerk of the House of Representatives are also from .
Going by this fact, if Efeturi is given the appointment, it would mean that three out of the six most senior positions in National Assembly would be held not just by one geopolitical zone, but by one state, which is Delta.