Why ALDRAP is Challenging Extension of National Assembly Workers Retirement in Court

BY LAW MEFOR

The National Assembly just passed the Bill to increase the retirement age of National Assembly civil servants to 65 years or 40 years of service, whichever comes first. The existing law prescribes 60 years of age or 35 years of service for retirement. This happened despite the stiff opposition mounted by some lawmakers who kicked against the bill, saying that special treatment should not be given to national assembly staff.

Specifically, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, senator representing Abia South, and Senator Ali Ndume said there is no difference between a civil servant in the national assembly and a federal ministry. They both did not see why the civil servants in the National Assembly should be equated to university lecturers and judicial officials whose retirement age was extended by the National Assembly recently.

The Association of Legislative Drafting and Advocacy Practitioners (ALDRAP) is asking the same questions and has taken a step further to challenge the abnormality in court. The simple question is: What is the difference between the person who is working in the national assembly and the person working in the ministries? The truth is that nothing separates the person who works inside the two categories of workers. So, ALDRAP believes nobody stays in the National Assembly beyond the rules of the public service of Nigeria on retirement year.

Thus the Association of Legislative Drafting and Advocacy Practitioners (ALDRAP) has decided to sue the National Assembly regarding the extension of the retirement age to 65 years. The association sees the extension as an affront to, and desecration of, the 1999 Constitution.

Some staff of the National Assembly who are members of a professional Association named the Association of Legislative Drafting and Advocacy Practitioners (ALDRAP) have instructed their lawyer to file a lawsuit at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.

Amongst other Reliefs being sought, the Association-ALDRAP is asking the Court to determine whether the National Assembly ought not to have applied the procedure for alteration of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as provided under section 9 instead of the ordinary law-making process specified in section 58 of the said Constitution.

According to the Association-ALDRAP, considering that the Clerk to the National Assembly and staff of the National Assembly are listed in section 318 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, the procedure for enacting any law for extension of the age of retirement, ought to be by way of alteration of the said Constitution.

The Association-ALDRAP argues that the method ought to be similar to the method applied for the increase of the retirement age of judges as set out in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fifth Alteration) (No. 37) Act, 2023. Which provides that “a judicial officer appointed to any of the superior courts of record specified in section 6 (5) of the Constitution may retire when he attains the age of sixty-five years and he shall cease to hold office when he attains the age of seventy years”.

In the alternative, the Association-ALDRAP argues and seeks the National Industrial Court of Nigeria to make an Order that 60 years or 35 years of service (whichever comes earlier) as stipulated in the National Assembly Pensions Board Act, 2023 remains the valid age of retirement for all staff of the National Assembly until it is expressly repealed.

More importantly, the Association-ALDRAP seeks an Order of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria to restrain the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from assenting to the said Bill for the increase of the age of retirement of staff of the National Assembly. The reason for this is because the said Bill is in contravention to the recent pronouncement and towards reduction of the cost of governance through implementation of the 2011 Stephen Orasonye Committee Report by the Federal Government of Nigerian, wherein the National Intelligence Agency Pensions Board was subsumed under the Pensions Commission (PenCom). The Association-ALDRAP argues that the National Assembly Pensions Board Act, 2023 should be subsumed under the Pensions Commission and the said Act repealed as its enactment process did not comply with Sections 58 and 60 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution since the Authentication page states that both Chambers of the National Assembly concurred to the Bill on the same day, 23rd May 2023. The Supreme Court of Nigeria has held (Attorney-General of Bendel State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation (1981) that any legislation would be declared unconstitutional and therefore void if it is proven that the process of its enactment fails to comply strictly with the law-making process as specified in the Constitution.

ALDRAP members believe the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which is the grund norm, should not be violated by the National Assembly, and courts should act to protect the constitution by striking down the Bill as unconstitutional and therefore null and void.

·Dr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts; drlawmefor@gmail.com; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor

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