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Nigerian Lawmakers Fight to Extend Retirement Age

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Nigeria’s National Assembly is facing a backlash from its own staff over a bill that seeks to extend the retirement age of parliamentary workers from 60 to 65 years or from 35 to 40 years of service.

The bill, which has passed in the House of Representatives and is awaiting concurrence in the Senate, has been denounced by the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) as a ploy by the outgoing Clerk and over 200 senior staff to stay in office for another five years.

The union argues that the bill will violate the constitution, contravene the council of establishment’s decision, and hamper the career progression of its members. It also warns that the bill will worsen the unemployment crisis among Nigerian youths, who make up more than half of the population.

The bill’s proponents, however, claim that it is aimed at preserving the institutional memory and expertise of the parliamentary staff, who play a vital role in the legislative process. They cite examples of other countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, where the retirement age for civil servants is higher than 60.

A history of attempts

This is not the first time that the National Assembly management has tried to push for an extension of the retirement age. Since 2017, several attempts have been made by different clerks and legislators to amend the law, but they were met with stiff resistance from the union and the public.

In 2019, the union staged a protest and threatened to go on strike if the bill was passed. The bill was then dropped by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In 2020, a revised edition of the conditions of service for the National Assembly staff was issued, which included the tenure extension. However, the union challenged the legality of the document and forced the National Assembly Service Commission to expunge it.

The revision led to the retirement of the then Clerk to the National Assembly, Ataba Sani Omolori, and 150 staff of the service.

In 2021, the bill resurfaced in the House of Representatives under the speakership of Femi Gbajabiamila, but it was rejected by the House and did not see the light of the day.

A renewed push

The current Clerk to the National Assembly, Sani Tambawal Magaji, who is due to retire in November 2024, is allegedly behind the latest push for the bill. He is said to have secured the support of some influential senators and representatives, who are also eyeing an extension of their tenure.

The bill was listed for concurrence in the Senate on Wednesday, February 14, 2024, after it had passed the first reading a few weeks ago. However, the Senate reversed itself and postponed the debate on the bill, following a public outcry and a petition from a group of staff.

The group called on the Senate to throw away the bill in the public and national interest, and urged the management to focus on improving the welfare and allowances of the staff, which they said had been denied since 2010.

A matter of debate

The bill has sparked a heated debate among Nigerians, with some supporting it and others opposing it. Some of the arguments for and against the bill are:

– For: The bill will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the parliamentary staff, who have acquired valuable skills and knowledge over the years. It will also align the retirement age of the parliamentary staff with that of the judges and professors, who can retire at 70 and 65 respectively.

– Against: The bill will create a bottleneck and a stagnation in the service, as many junior staff will be unable to rise to senior positions. It will also deprive the youths of the opportunity to be employed and contribute to the development of the country.

The fate of the bill is still uncertain, as the Senate has not indicated when it will resume the debate on it. The union has vowed to resist the bill by all means, while the management has maintained that it is in the best interest of the service.

Source: Vanguard 

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