It is really sad and disturbing that the Abia/ Imo slot in the National Assembly Service Commission has remained vacant for 17 months after the inauguration of the present board. The National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) is an agency established by law sometime around 1999 during the Presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to be in charge of the recruitment, promotion and discipline of the staff of the National Assembly just like its counterpart, the Civil Service Commission is in charge of the staff of the civil service of the federation.
The National Assembly Service Commission Act Section 3(3) empowers the Senate President in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives to nominate Commissioners for appointment to the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria. As has now been established as a convention, they engage in wide consultation with their colleagues over such nominations. In fact the two helmsmen usually grant the leadership of the various zones in the National Assembly a great deal of autonomy and freedom in the choice of nominees from the different zones and sections of the country.
In the exercise of such nomination, the rotational principle is always taken into consideration in the spirit of equity and fairness. Two commissioners are appointed from each geo-political zone of the country for five-year tenure. It is also the prerogative of the Senate President to nominate the Chairman of the Commission for appointment by Mr. President. As a result of the rotational principle that governs such nomination into shared positions.
Abia and Imo states share a common slot as is the case in the Federal Civil Commission. For instance in the Federal Civil Service Commission at the expiration of the tenure of Dr Chimaobi Odunze from Abia State, he was succeeded by Dr Fred Ekwem from Imo State who is the incumbent commissioner now. In like manner, Barr. Godfrey Dike Ocha from Imo State served out his five-year tenure as the commissioner that represented Abia/Imo states at the National Assembly Service Commission and the position was naturally supposed to revert back to an Abia nominee.
Till date this has not happened even though other sections of the country had their nominees sworn since February 20, 2020. Such vacant position that belongs to Imo and Abia states has made the South East zone to have only one commissioner in the person of Senator Julius Ucha who represents Anambra/Enugu/Ebonyi states while other zones of the country have a minimum of two representatives each.
The implication of not having a representative on the board of the NASC as guaranteed by the law setting up the agency can be very dire for the people of the two sister states of Abia and Imo especially in a geo-political environment where public policy formulation and execution is guided more by ethno religious considerations rather than merit. The citizens of Imo and Abia, whom the position belong to, do not actually know the reason for such lack of representation at this very strategic agency as almost all the members of the National Assembly from the area are keeping sealed lips over the matter.
The last known intervention over the matter happened on July 8, 2020 when a strong delegation of Abia leaders of thought comprising a bi-partisan delegation met with the Senate President over the matter. The delegation included the Chief Whip of the Senate and the former governor of the state His Excellency Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu, former Governor Senator T.A. Orji, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyi Abaribe, Deputy Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. Nkiru Onyejeocha, House Spokesman, Hon Benjamin Kalu. Other House of Representative Members that attended included Hon Sam Onuigbo, Hon Darlington Nwokocha, Hon. Uko Nkole, late Hon. Ossy Prestige and Hon. Nkem Abonta.
There were also high profile former office holders like the former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, Senator Nkechi Nwogu, Senator Chris Adighije, former Speakers of the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon. Stanley Ohajuruka and Hon. Martin Azubuike and a host of other Abia leaders. In the said meeting of these Abia leaders with the Senate President, the Abia position on the vacant position of a commissioner was said to have been conclusively canvassed. It was also said that the Senate President gave his word that he would certainly consider Abia’s request. It is nearly one year after that meeting, the vacancy is still there. Nobody is telling any person any reason why the Senate President, Lawan has not fulfilled his promise to such a distinguished delegation that went to practically beg him for what is by law and convention their right. It is also important to note that even though Abia and Imo states parade many vocal members of the National Assembly, they have all kept sealed lips over this anomaly.
It will be trite to say that the absence of an Abia /Imo commissioner in the National Assembly Service Commission is a great injustice to the two sister states of Abia and Imo states in particular and South East in general. This is particularly so when it is realized that Senate President Ahmed Lawan’s North East zone has two members in addition to the Chairman of the Commission who hails from the same Yobe State as himself.
Chief Jones Nnanna Ike, a former Executive Chairman, Arochukwu Local Government Council, writes from Abuja