By Israel Osa
To borrow a statement credited to the President of Singapore, the most prosperous nation on earth, “Appointments to positions in their country is not based on state of origin, region, educational height or qualification, political connection, etc, but careful screening of who the best candidate for the position is and selection of that person irrespective of their status or political affiliation. This is the principle that brought Singapore from being a third world country to being the most prosperous nation in the world.”
The running of a complex infrastructure like the premises of NASS and administration of such an iconic institution (National Assembly Complex) has little or nothing to do with law or legal knowledge.
Issues relating to law and legal processes can be effectively managed by a properly-structured legal department which is standard for every corporate institution and establishment globally.
However, the critical success factor for running the daily affairs of the NASS complex and administration lies in the ability and the capacity of proposed candidate to be versatile in actionable innovations and progressive thinking in strategic career abilities such as architecture, engineering, infrastructure management and maintenance, capacity development, human resources, conflict management, health and safety, information and communications technology, procurement, security of lives and properties, social integration, research and development, and diplomacy and cultural integration.
All over the world, professionals with architecture or engineering backgrounds and qualifications are usually appointed to similar portfolios.
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You cannot speak legal jargons to a plumber, electrician, carpenter, etc, you manage them and ensure the building housing our lawmakers functions optimally.
I have never seen a Clerk of the National Assembly, CNA, sponsoring bills or debating with lawmakers in the hallowed chamber anywhere in the world.
The Supreme Court is a court, the NASS complex houses and provides infrastructure for lawmakers to function effectively in the discharge of their legislative duties. The debate on who qualifies should never be centred on legal education or background, but capacity to manage human and infrastructure in a seamless flow of managerial intelligence.
Globally, the top professional designates usually deployed for assignments such as these are architects, engineers and facility management professionals.
They oversee issues relating to managing the entire complex, which is 99.9% technical with just 0.1 legal requirements.
Considering the fact that most MDAs and government institutions all run effective legal departments, the NASS complex should not be an exception. It is not a court premises neither does it hear cases nor deliver judgements.
The questions that should arise from the selection process should be track record, qualifications, requisite sector experience as related to job deliverables such as integrity and general acceptability of the personality of the candidate.
I clearly understand the fears of those who authored the article, but I daresay that the premises that led to their conclusion are rather inappropriate or clearly not correct.
While it is true that some professionals are believed to have special skills and knowledge in their line of practice, it will be fallacious to apply that same principle to administrative duties that demands nothing other than competence, character and administrative experience.
For a fact, I have read through all the provisions of the Public Service Act and the National Assembly Service Commission Act and there is no such provision that requires a lawyer or “trained legislative director/secretary” to occupy the position of Clerk or Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly.
Apparently, their position is unfounded in law and repugnant to any progressive administrative ideology.
Any attempt to narrow down to a particular profession in the appointment of CNA, whose duty is mainly administrative, will be tantamount to undermining the potency and quality of the Permanent Secretaries in National Assembly, who are expected to use their wealth of experience in the highest echelon of service as done in the executive that operates on the same public service rules.
While there is no law prohibiting a lawyer from being a CNA, there is indeed no law that mandates only a lawyer to hold that office. What is important is for the occupier of the office to have the administrative manpower needed to successfully engineer his assigned duties.
Regardless of the profession, what should be the criteria is competency, experience and nothing more.
To be clear, not all lawyers are even wired to be administrators. No professional, in fact, is automatically presumed to be an administrator on the basis of profession alone. That will be a costly erroneous presumption.
One must look beyond the professional certifications and take a proper check at the administrative experience and qualification of whosoever is billed to occupy that office.
Moreover, within the little age of our democracy, the National Assembly has been blessed with a number of successful erudite Clerks to the National Assembly who were neither lawyers nor chambers workers in the likes of Dr. Adamu Fika, Maikasuwa, and even Adelami Owolabi who was the immediate past Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly.
Those who tend to fabricate strange laws or precedents are merely living in the figment of their imaginations. The earlier they face reality, the better for all of us.
Osa wrote in from Abuja.