It is indeed gratifying to note that the severance benefits of the ex-legislative aides that served in the immediate past 7th National Assembly (2011-2015) are being paid to them this week after months of tension, acrimony and a calculated campaign of blackmail and calumny mounted by the ex-legislative aides either acting separately or under their trade union, the National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum, NASLAF. During those tense months, no amount of insults and tendentious allegations was deemed too much to be hauled against the NASS management as they were accused severally of embezzling the over 10billion naira meant for the severance benefits, diverting the funds into secret accounts or stashing the vast amount in a fixed deposit account to yield interest on behalf of key NASS officials.
Threatening phone calls and ominous text messages were sent to top NASS management functionaries warning them of impending physical harm to their person or family members if the severance benefits were not paid to the legislative aides. On numerous occasions, the disgruntled legislative aides mounted road blocks at the entrance to the NASS premises, threatening fire and brimstone at all and sundry and it took the combined efforts of the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Police, and the Civil Defence officers attached to the NASS complex before the road blocks were dismounted and free flow of human and vehicular traffic restored. Other questionable methods employed by NASLAF and the ex-legislative aides to get their message across involved the use of print and electronic media propaganda depicting the NASS management as insensitive, apathetic, arrogant and hard hearted towards the plight of the legislative aides by refusing to pay their benefits while many of them were wallowing in penury as a result of having lost their jobs with the terminal end of the 7th National Assembly.
Taking matters to the level of brinkmanship and kamikaze dare devilry, the increasingly frustrated ex-legislative aides even attempted to block the convoy of President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2016 NASS budget presentation in order to press their demands but the NASS security apparatus aborted their ill-motivated mission by barring them from entering the NASS complex on the day of budget presentation.
But despite the untoward antics and incessant theatricals of the disaffected NASLAF members, the NASS management remained unfazed and unbowed in the legitimate discharge of its administrative, duties and functions, no matter the incipient level of dubious allegations and spurious media propaganda launched by all manner of actors and pretenders to the tortuous severance benefits saga. As far as the NASS management headed by the resourceful and highly professional Clerk to the National Assembly, CNA, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa was concerned, the issue of severance benefits would be resolved at the appropriate time and no manner of false information, rumour mongering or finger pointing could unduly pressure the management into cutting corners, administratively speaking, in order to satisfy the whims and caprices of the increasingly restless NASLAF denizens. Having successfully re-engineered, restructured, re-positioned and re-invigorated the entire NASS bureaucracy by a series of administrative, managerial, operational and policy reforms for a more credible, efficient and effective service delivery to the federal legislators and the Nigerian public at large, a steadfast Alhaji Maikasuwa was not about to allow the misdirected angst and agitation of the NASLAF members to distract or divert the smooth running of the vast NASS bureaucracy.
As far as the CNA was concerned, an innocent mind fears no accusation and at the proper time, when the funds had been released, the ex-legislative aides would have their day at the banks. With the payment of their severance benefits ongoing at this point in time, the NASLAF members owe the entire NASS management and staff, an unconditional, unreserved and unequivocal statement of apology for the unwarranted, uncivilised and unconscionably despicable and reprehensible campaign of blackmail, calumny and opprobrium they mounted against the NASS management in the last 6 months or so. Nothing more and nothing less is required of the NASLAF and the ex-legislative aides by right thinking members of our civilised society.
Barrister Abdul Aliyu wrote in from Maitama, Abuja