Members of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) in Lagos, Oyo, and Ogun States have embarked on an indefinite strike over non-implementation of financial autonomy for state legislatures.
Their protests across the south-west states Tuesday grounded legislative activities in the states’ houses of assemblies.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in May 2020, signed an executive order, granting financial autonomy to legislatures across the 36 states.
But the association said the executive arm has refused to implement the order.
In Lagos, Taofiq Adele, the PASAN state chairperson, said the strike followed the alleged inability of governors to carry out the order, 10 months after it was given.
“Recall that the bedrock of parliamentary autonomy hinges on financial independence,” Mr Adele said.
“Autonomy in this context is simply defined as non-dependence and non-subordination of parliaments in relation to the executive.
“This non-dependence and non-subordination as stated above is in terms of unfettered control, over financial and other related resources.
“Therefore, according to the best practices, the parliaments should have equitable access to resources.
“As such, parliaments by constitutional arrangements, are supposed to have enough financial muscle to carry out their legislative mandates, including exercising power over budgets.”
According to Mr Adele, parliaments should have control of and authority to determine and secure their budgetary requirements unconstrained by the executive.
He said such an arrangement would further save for budgetary constraints dictated by national circumstances.
The unionist said there was the need for the legislature to assert its role as a separate arm of government.
He added that the parliaments should be able to have control over their own timetable and ability to recall themselves outside normal sessions if required by circumstances.
The chairman said that the principle of autonomy in practice included parliaments’ responsibility for their own staffing and control over their own budgets.
He alleged that notices had been issued in line with the provisions of the Trade Disputes Act of the Federation, with no response from the government.
The chairperson, however, urged members of PASAN to be peaceful from the beginning to the end of the strike and wear legislative uniforms (PASAN cap) to the office on Tuesday in order not to give room for hoodlums to hijack the action.
The Oyo PASAN chapter shut all the entrances of the State Assembly complex in compliance with the directive of the national leadership of the association.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the protest signals the commencement of an indefinite strike by the legislative workers and the total shut down of the legislative arm.
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.
The protesting workers, who assembled at the House of Assembly Complex entrance blocked the main entrance with some vehicles while they sang and danced.
The situation forced a security readjustment at the Oyo State Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan, as only one gate in the complex was opened.
Addressing the protesters, Oyo PASAN Chairperson, Yemi Alade, said that they were fighting for the non-implementation of financial autonomy as it was a provisional constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Having observed that with the current emasculation of the legislative arm of government, there can be no true democracy.
“The bill has been passed since 2018, then in May, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari also capped it with a Presidential Order 10, but up till now, they are yet to implement it.
“And this is a fundamental provision of the constitution which has been relegated to the background.
“As a staff of the House of Assembly, if there is no true democracy; no independence, it will affect the democracy of the country.
“It is affecting the entire country not only the staff of the House of Assembly because the principle of separation of power stipulates that each arm of government must act separately and if there is no financial autonomy, all other arms of government will be in slavery to the executive arm.
“Our grievances are against both the state and federal government. There is a presidential order that mandated them to implement this financial autonomy but the Governors Forum is the one behind the non-implementation.’’
In solidarity with the protesters, the Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Adebo Ogundoyin, said all the lawmakers had earlier been advised to stay away from the complex due to the protest and as such the protest did not come as surprise.
He appreciated the workers for choosing to take up the fight in the interest of the independence of the Legislative Arm and deepening of the country’s democracy.
“I want to use this medium to appreciate the PASAN because, without you, we can’t be a legislative arm of government.
“I know that PASAN remains the landlord of the legislature arm of government and it is our responsibility to build PASAN as well the civil service.
“The lawmakers and I will always support what will bring development to the legislative arm of government as long as you are united; I can guarantee you that the autonomy for the State House of Assembly nationwide will be granted by the Governors Forum.’’
Mr Ogundoyin said that they had a series of meetings at the conference even with the Governors Forum and with what was on the ground and the progress made, “ we are almost at the finish line’’.
“Details of the meeting at the ongoing Governors Forum will be released at the appropriate time. I thank PASAN for the steps taken because it has been long overdue for the Legislative Arm of Government to have its financial autonomy.
“The general consensus is that we will use one method for all the states and that will bring about rapid development and independence for the States House of Assembly nationwide,’’ he said.
James Obanla, the Ogun State chairperson of PASAN, also said the assembly staff had joined the strike as directed by the national body.
Mr Obanla said all activities at the assembly complex would be grounded indefinitely.
The PASAN chair, who noted that the strike would affect correspondences from the executive arm of government, however, expressed confidence in the quick resolution of the issue.
Speaking on the benefits of financial autonomy when fully implemented, Mr Obanla said the autonomy would enhance the business of government and also provide room for separation of power.
“The strike is indefinite, businesses among the three arms of government will be affected.
“Today’s plenary is already affected and the stakeholders’ forum scheduled for tomorrow will likely be affected too,” he said.
NAN reports that the lawmakers and staff of the assembly were absent at the complex.