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Group Sues Nigerian Senate President Akpabio, House Of Reps Speaker Abbas Over Bill Extending Retirement Age Of National Assembly Workers .

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Senate President Godswill Akpabio; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas; Chairman of the National Assembly and Clerk of the National Assembly are 1st to 4th respondents respectively.

AFederal High Court has been asked to stop further proceedings of both the Senate and House of Representatives seeking to extend the retirement age of National Assembly staff members from 60 to 65 years.

The request is contained in a motion on notice filed by the Registered Trustees of Mavrik Applicant Solution Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO). The organisation noted that it is aimed at preserving the subject matter of a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/287 /2024.

Senate President Godswill Akpabio; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas; Chairman of the National Assembly and Clerk of the National Assembly are 1st to 4th respondents respectively.

The applicant is specifically praying the court for: “An order of Interlocutory Injunction retraining the 1st and 2nd respondents from taking any further move in passing or forwarding the bill extending the retirement age of the 4th respondent and other staff of the National Assembly to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for assent pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

“An order mandating the 4th respondent or any one in his capacity and all the staff of the National Assembly who are due for retirement, to proceed on leave forthwith, since there is no assented legislation permitting them to stay more than the age stipulated by the Public Service Rules.”

The suit brought pursuant to Order 26 of the Federal High Court of Nigeria Civil Procedure Rules 2019 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court, dated March 5, was filed on March 6, 2024 by Henry Okoro and it is before Court 8, Federal House Court in Abuja.

In an affidavit deposed in support of the motion on notice, the applicant alleged that “the due process of law was not followed in passing the bill and as such is inconsistent with the constitution.”

While arguing that the order of the court is needed to stop the further perfection of the bill pending the determination of the substantive suit, the applicant submitted that “if the res is not preserved, pending the determination of this substantive suit, the judgment of the court will at the end be an effort in futility should it go in favour of the applicant.”

In the main suit, the plaintiff raised some issues for determination which include: “Whether having regard to the extant provisions of section 318 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) if the 4th respondent and other staff of the National Assembly did not fall within the purview of the description of who can be referred to as a public servant?

“Whether having regard to the provisions of Rule 020908 of the Public Service Rules (2021), if it is legal for the 1st and 2nd Respondents to with uttermost disregard to the above provision, and without firstly amending the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, plot for, through a clandestine legislation, to extend the retirement age of the 4th respondent and other staff of the National Assembly to additional five (5) years?”

Among the reliefs sought are a declaration that the 4th respondent and other staff members of the National Assembly fall within the purview of public servants as provided in section 318 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) whose appointments and retirements are regulated by the Public Service Rules (2021).

In a 28-paragraph affidavit deposed in support of the main suit, one of the trustees of the plaintiff, Mr Muhammad Haamid, recalled that the 4th respondent and others working under that capacity have over the years served and retired at the expiration of 35 or 60 years as the case may be.

He said, “That the said years of retirement was set by the Public Service Rules, under which the 4th respondent and other Staff of the National Assembly were employed.

“That in a swift move, the 1st and 2nd defendant came up with legislation seeking to increase the retirement age of the 4th respondent and other staff of the National Assembly from 35 to 40 years and 60 to 65 years depending on which one comes first.

“That the above bill is at variance with the provision in the Public Service Rules.

“That the 4th respondents and other staff of the National Assembly did not fall under any special category of public servants that could warrant such hasty amendment.

“That the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not place the 4th respondent and other Staff of the National Assembly as special staff outside the Contemplation of the Public Service Rules.

“That the 1st and 2nd respondents have no power to secretly pass a bill on issues that are subject to the Constitution without firstly amending the Constitution.

“That the said bill (Harmonize Bill for Retirement of National Assembly Staff) did not follow a due process of law.

“That this court is urged to invalidate same.

“That there is no special training at the point of their employment that makes them different from other Public Servants whose retirement age is 35 and 60 years depending on which one comes first.

“That an order of this court is needed to stop the extension of the years of service of the 4th respondent and other Staff of the National Assembly.

“That if this court did not make the order, it will lead to chaos in Public Service of the Federation.”

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