*Set for Buhari’s 2019 budget presentation today
*Caution workers against toying with Nigeria’s symbol of democracy
*As striking parliamentary staff remain resolute
By Omomia Kassim and Olugbenga Salami
Both chambers of the National Assembly yesterday resolved to receive President Muhammadu Buhari in a joint session for the presentation of the N8.7trillion budget proposals for 2019 fiscal year as requested by the President last week despite four days warning strike embarked upon by members of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria, PASAN.
This is even as the striking workers of the National Assembly said it would continue with the four-day strike started on Monday over the non-payment of their 28 per cent salary increment since 2010 and allowances captured in the 2018 budget.
But the federal lawmakers declared the ongoing strike by the workers under the aegis of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria, PASAN as inconsequential to their plenary sessions generally and the budget presentation by President Buhari today in particular.
President Buhari had on Thursday last week in separate letters addressed to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, requested the federal lawmakers to grant him the hours of 11:00am of Wednesday, December 19 for 2019 budget presentation.
Motion for the approval of the presidential request was moved by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan APC-Yobe North and seconded by the Senate Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Emmanuel Paulker, PDP-Bayelsa Central.
The motion got overwhelming approval of the entire senators at the session when put to voice vote by the Senate President.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary staff members have vowed to continue with their strike even as President Buhari presents national budget today.
The workers, who stormed the gate of National Assembly for the second day, yesterday, prevented people from gaining entry into the complex even as there’s tight security as directed by the management.
But leadership of the legislature has said that the strike would not stop both chambers from sitting.
In separate interviews with journalists, Leader in the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Yusuf Tajudeen said no strike action can disrupt the workings of the National Assembly.
Hon. Gbajabiamila said the federal lawmakers are not employers of PASAN the same way PASAN are not employees of the federal lawmakers, “so the question of their strike action affecting our plenary sitting is not there.”
“Though penultimate Tuesday when they first carried out the protest, we granted them the honour of hearing from them by not sitting that day, that does not mean that they have the right to shut down the chamber.
“The Legislative Privileges Act is even against anybody or group of persons carrying out any action to disrupt legislative sessions, by making provision for six months imprisonment for such an offence which I know every member of PASAN is aware of.
“PASAN members may continue with their strike action but as far as we are concerned as federal lawmakers, their action will not stop us from sitting and hosting the President tomorrow (today)”, he stressed.
Hon Tajudeen in his own reaction to PASAN strike said it was wrong for the parliamentary workers to continue with the strike despite intervention made by the leadership of the National Assembly in getting their demands met by the management of the federal parliament.
“The money they are requesting for is already captured in the 2018 budget but yet to be cash backed the same way, many of the budgetary provisions appropriated for the federal lawmakers in the 2018 budget are yet to cash backed”, he said.