By Amos Aar, Makurdi, with Agency reports
MEMBERS of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN), Tuesday staged a nationwide protest to express their grievances over the lack of financial independence for State Houses of Assembly across the country, and as a prelude to an indefinite national strike.
In Makurdi, Benue State capital, protesting PASAN members locked the gates of the Benue State House of Assembly, while in Dutse, Jigawa State capital, the union similarly shut the gates to the state’s legislators, barring them from accessing the chamber and their offices.
Addressing the Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Titus Uba, on behalf of the protesters, Comrade Francis Adole, Chairperson of Benue State Chapter of PASAN, said the nationwide agitation which also was taken to the National Assembly in Abuja would continue until the union’s demand for autonomy was met.
The protesters, carrying placards bearing the message: “No Autonomy, No Legislation” marched to the House of Assembly chanting solidarity song as they shut all exit points in and out of the premises.
Comrade Adole said PASAN is insisting that Executive Order No. 10 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2020 giving financial autonomy to the legislature and Judiciary of states must be implemented.
He handed a copy of the union’s letter of demand to the Speaker for onward transmission to the federal government.
Responding, the Speaker who thanked the protesters for their peaceful and orderly conduct, however expressed concerns that the protest had obstructed some serious legislative businesses scheduled for Tuesday and other days of the week not knowing that the Assembly would be shut down indefinitely.
Speaker Uba said the governors were not opposed to the financial autonomy of the state legislature as they were working out modalities to come up with a template that would be suitable for both sides (executive and the legislature), assuring that the process would be completed in two weeks’ time.
He said PASAN was exercising its civic rights but should continue to do it within the ambit of the law since they refused to shift ground and the Speaker promised to convey their message accordingly to the federal government.
The Speaker and his colleagues turned back as the workers remained adamant and refused to allow access to the Assembly.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that in Dutse, Jigawa State, PASAN members also vowed to go beyond shutting down the State House of Assembly to doing same to the National Assembly, the National Assembly Service Commission, all State Houses of Assembly as well as all State Houses of Assembly Service Commissions.
PASAN members barred entrance to the State House of Assembly as they staged the protest to kick off the indefinite strike.
The chairperson of the union in the state, Comrade Umar Kazaure, said the strike became imperative following the expiration of a 21-day ultimatum the union gave to the government to implement financial autonomy for the legislature.
Comrade Kazaure said the union was patient for two years after President Muhammadu Buhari signed the financial autonomy Act, but state governors have failed to implement it. He said the union will continue the strike until their demand was met.
Comrade Kazaure also said if state governments fail to address their demands, PASAN would embark on a nationwide strike that will involve shutting down the National Assembly, the National Assembly Service Commissions, all State Houses of Assembly and all State Houses of Assembly Service Commissions.
President Buhari had set up the Presidential Implementation Committee on Financial Autonomy for State Judiciary and Legislature to ensure full implementation of financial autonomy for the two arms of the state government, in line with section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended and Executive Order 10. However, all the 36 states of the federation are yet to implement the Order.