The Nigerian National Assembly and indeed parliaments across the world most often engage the services of support staff coined legislative aides whose primary responsibilities include a variety of legislative support to their individual principals in the areas of research on bills and motions, communications, public relations, administrativedutiesandaccurate data required for robust parliamentary activities.
It is important to state further, that the enormous task before the legislative aides in most cases spills into weekends and public holidays especially during challenging and demanding periods necessitated by circumstances and scenarios that require parliamentary interventions or decisions in the overall interest of the state.
In most cases, the legislative aides serve as liasons between their principals and the constituencies that these lawmakers represent and consequent upon that, the aides play the stand-in role for the lawmakers where necessary.
This and many other responsibilities of the legislative aides have assisted lawmakers in very many ways so much that it serves it enhances parliamentary activities by generating facts and figures that are required for bills and motions that seek to elevate and improve the lives of the people. In other words, this role of the legislative aides provides the necessary information needed for optimum performance in terms of debates there-by making lawmakers argue from the perspective of knowledge.
There is therefore a school of thought that believes that the legislative aides are indeed the engine-room for the lawmakers as they serve in many capacities ranging from Special Adviser, Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants, Senior Legislative Aides, Legislative Aides, Personal Assistants as well as secretaries.
This and many more have undoubtedly explainedtheneedforperiodic training andenhanced general welfare of the legislative aides withthe view to placing them in a position that would encourage them to perform their duties with high degree of confidence, loyalty, commitment and patriotism.
For the National Assembly, the history of the legislative aides dates from the inception of democracy in Nigeria in 1999. It was coined National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum (NASSLAF), but like any other assemblage of people from different backgrounds and orientation, the forum’s activities were hugely hindered by her leadership tussle in the 8th National Assembly (2015-2019) and consequently rendered the forum impotent.
The 9th National Assembly presents another opportunity for the legislative aides and a topflight contender for the office of the chairman of the NASSLAF, Barrister (High Chief) Emeka Nwala appears set to take the challenge to revive the forum and give it a new lease.
His thought provoking slogan of “Peoples Choice” comes with a handful of promises to restore the forum and take it to a greater enviable height with the support of the leadership of the 9th National Assembly and management of the bureaucracy if elected.
BarristerNwalaheadsthelegislative andadministrativeoffice of the Senate Chief Whip, Dr. OrjiUzor Kalu, at the moment, and in his declarative speech, he promised to run a NASSLAF that would be pragmatic and model for successive regimes.
According to him, “I am presently courting a robust relationship with the offices of the leadership of the National Assembly even as I enjoy the listening ear of my principal who on his part is one with a knack for people’s welfare and I shall within record time ensure that the Duty Tour Allowance, first 28 days, training and other entitlements are restored.
“My administration will interface with management with the view to seeking upward review of our allowances and other packages. We will encourage aides to own houses by arranging with the relevant authorities in the FCDA, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria and management of National Assembly to facilitate this project.
We shall also introduce car loan of not more than N1 million for interested aides.” He also promised to interface with the bureaucracy to ensure that welfare and training in partnership with the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies that would ensure that members remain marketable even beyound the 9th National Assembly, amend the constitution of the forum to give it a legal status, take a closer look at the ongoing deduction from aides’ salaries and look in the direction of sourcing for funds through the management or even worse case scenario reduce the deductions to barest minimum.
Nwala promised to also strengthen zonal meetings, seek the establishment of elders’ Consultative Council, regular and quarterly congresses to allow members present their opinions, publication of the forum’s activities on designated platforms as well as establishment of a cooperative society for members to provide social economic benefits and a get-together at the end of every year.
It is therefore important to note that experience is such an important requirement for parliamentary activities, therefore, as the engine -room of the parliament, many would agree with the school of thought that believes that, it would be proper to recruit an experienced and dynamic leadership for the legislative aides of Nigeria’s highest lawmaking institution, the National Assembly.
As a member f the 6th National Assembly legislative aide forum and having served as its vice chairman in the same assembly; Barrister Nwala played key roles in assembling the building blocks for a solid legislative aides’ forum.
He, alongside other progressive minds, laid the foundation that rolled out a lot of incentives for legislative aides, many are of the strong opinion that the job of NASSLAF chairman for the 9th Assembly properly fits Barrister Emeka Nwala • Achuah writes from Abuja