Lagos 2019 budget and drums of impeachment
The threat by the Lagos House of Assembly to impeach Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode moved from the realm of rumour to reality when legislators Monday voiced their plot against the the governor for not presenting the budget early and refusing to lay it before the Assembly, among other infractions.
34 lawmakers spoke at the plenary, of which 28 want the governor impeached, while six asked him to resign. Ambode had sent the 2019 appropriation bill to the Assembly on December 24, requesting to formally make a presentation on December 28. But the lawmakers declined the request on the ground that they were on recess. Though it was learnt the Assembly agreed that the governor would present the appropriation bill on January 21, the lawmakers changed their mind, as they did not attend to the governor.
The Assembly then adjourned its sitting on Monday till February 4, with a proviso that the Governor, the commissioner for finance and two others should appear before it within seven days to explain the infractions it has raised. This means the Governor and his aides must appear before the Assembly before it resumed for plenary.
At the sitting, some members wanted the process of impeachment to commence immediately, claiming that the executive had been implementing the 2019 budget without approval. The Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa overruled that position, saying it was important to give the governor a fair hearing.
Obasa agreed there have been violations of the Constitution and infractions on the part of the Governor. “The Attorney General, Finance Commissioner and Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning that ought to have advised the governor did not do so.“The most important thing is that we should let the people know that a budget that was yet to be approved was being spent, which was why we could not attend to the Governor on the budget on Monday 21, January. We must give them a fair hearing to come and explain what happened.
“The point has been made that there must be something before the House before you can commence expenditure. We can start gathering signatures for impeachment. We can exercise patience and wait till another time,” he said.
The lawmakers had reacted to a report presented by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, Chairman of the Committee set up to look into the issues surrounding the 2019 budget during a parliamentary meeting. Members of the Committee included Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts (State), Hon. Moshood Oshun; Chairman, House Committee on Budget and Economic Planning, Hon. Gbolahan Yishawu; Chairman, House Committee on the Environment, Hon. Dayo Saka-Fafunmi and Chairman, House Committee on Works and Infrastructure, Hon. Abiodun Tobun.
Eshinlokun-Sanni revealed that the committee met with relevant commissioners and heads of agencies. The Deputy Speaker stated that the committee met with the Commissioner For Budget and Economic Planning, Hon. Segun Banjo, who said that no money had been spent.He said the Accountant General told the committee that warrant had been issued that they could spend up to 25 per cent of the preceding budget before the approval of that of the new year.
He said that they would have to make recourse to the House if they wanted to spend up to N200 Million. “We pointed out that the Governor ought to lay the budget of the New Year before December 31st, but that so far the budget was yet to be laid, which was on January 23, 2019.“We asked them to bring out the law that allows them to spend up to 25 per cent of the budget of the preceding year. They could not bring out such law and we said what they did was wrong.
“We discovered that people have started receiving alerts and this has a grave implication for the executive. It is our finding that for smooth running of government, there must be a strict adherence to the Constitution and it must not be violated. We decided to bring the report before the lawmakers for us to take action,” he said.
In his comment, Hon. Gbolahan Yishawu revealed that the Committee on Budget discovered during budget appropriation review that there were some specific expenditure in the budgets that ought to have been approved by the House over which funds were expended. Yishawu stated that there was infraction, and that they noticed variation in the expenditure and budget approved.
“We had issues of virement and monies being spent without approval. We had cases of items that were not budgeted for being carried out, it shows the executive rewrite the budget at will. The Constitution states that the State House of Assembly must approve all expenditures,” he added. According to him, things are shutting down; the government is slowing things down. He said that it was as if the executive was tired and that the people were complaining.
Ironically, the Assembly that is hurrying to commence impeachment was not willing to call off its break to consider the 2019 budget. The same assembly cut short its recess to consider the environmental bill that gave birth to Visionscape. The bill was one of the most voluminous in the history of the legislation in the state but one of the fastest to be passed. This no doubt calls to question the sincerity and the seriousness that the Assembly now claims. A member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) wondered why the lawmakers could cut short their recess to consider an environmental bill, why did they find it difficult to return to consider the budget, which is of more importance. He claimed it is politics and a grand plan to further humiliate the Governor, which is a build up from the party primaries.
It would be recalled that weeks after the APC gubernatorial primaries was concluded, the rumour was that Ambode, who had been denied the party ticket was to be impeached as the party could not trust him to supervise the main election. It was gathered that the game plan changed, because there were fears of a backlash. This source said is why the legislative arm has been doing their bid to frustrate the Governor and the executive arm, believing that would force the Governor to resign. The source further said the impeachment plot was brought back to the table because the party and some APC leaders learnt that Ambode was funding Jimi Agbaje’s campaign. It was however learnt that there was no truth in the allegation, as the Governor has substantially supported Sanwo-Olu’s campaign. The source said the party leaders and lawmakers are not happy that Ambode is supporting Sanwo-Olu directly, rather than through them and their structure.
Another source claimed that the Assembly members want money to fund their individual campaigns and the governor was not willing to play ball for which the lawmakers have decided to squeeze him and force him to fund their campaign. For now, no one knows for sure how this drama will play out. Certainly, there are powerful forces behind the scene pulling strings.
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