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Three weeks to go… Ambode, Lagos lawmakers still not on same page

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[FILE PHOTO] Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Governor of Lagos State.<br />Photo: Twitter/ AkinwunmiAmbode

The perceived rancor between Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and members of the Lagos State House of Assembly took a fresh twist last Monday, when the hallowed chamber finally passed the 2019 Appropriation Bill.

Not minding that the Ambode administration has about three weeks to go, the lawmakers spent quality time to interrogate some of his initiatives.

The Oshodi Transport Interchange and medium capacity buses for public transportation in the state, an initiative of Governor Ambode was the target for the lawmakers this time.

During the plenary, it was evident that the Governor still has unresolved issues with the lawmakers, as the projects became a topic for intense debate.

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The Guardian had reported how the Assembly delayed the passage of the 2019 budget until few weeks to handing over by Ambode to the governor-elect Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

During the debate of the Appropriation Committee Report on the 2019 budget, there were issues regarding the Oshodi Transport Interchange. In the recommendation of the committee, headed by Hon. Gbolahan Yishawu, it was stated that the money budgeted for the completion of the projects should be deleted from the 2019 budget.

But during the debate on the committee’s report, Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Rotimi Abiru suggested that instead of deleting the monies for the projects outright from the budget, it should be transferred to Special Expenditure fund.

Former Chairman of the Appropriation committee, Hon. Rotimi Olowo supported the idea, and committee’s report was adopted as a resolution of the House and the budget was subsequently passed.

The implication of transferring the monies to the Special Expenditure Fund holds that the outgoing Governor cannot access the money unless he makes recourse to the House.

Sources in the Assembly revealed that there were issues of non-compliance by the executive to directives of the Assembly concerning the projects. The lawmakers maintained that the projects were unknown to the House.

According to a source in the House who preferred anonymity, “the Oshodi transport interchange and bus projects as captured in the budget are unknown to the House; the two projects are not really known to this House because they were not budgetted for in the previous budgets.”

It was also revealed that although the governor made request for them during the 2018 budget re-ordering, when the House demanded for more information on the projects, the Executive was not forthcoming.

“So what the House did in the last budget, there were some expenditures that we put under Special Expenditure Fund because we needed more information on these projects which was not given to us when we were working on the budget and these two projects fall into that category. The reason for keeping them in Special Expenditure is that whenever the Governor wants to access the money he will make recourse to the House, so that whatever we need to know will be explained to us.

“But despite the fact that we gave that order from 2018 budget, the executive was spending that money without making recourse to the House and that is why the House is saying the projects are not known to it.

“It is these same projects that the executive is making request for further funding in the 2019 budget, which the House has declined. The reason for declining the request is because of the previous instruction that we gave, which they did not comply with.”

A lawmaker who also wanted anonymity said the lawmakers agreed at their parliamentary meeting to move the funds to Special Expenditure for two reasons.

Firstly, deleting them completely from the budget will affect the total size of the budget, which was ready for passage and would result to further delay in trying to reconcile the budget with the new reality.

And secondly, “now a new government is coming in, Ambode is going, taking the expenditure for the two items to the Special Expenditure Fund means that the new administration can still access the monies and continue with the projects once it makes recourse to the Assembly for approval,” he said.
However, the State Government has rolled out the new buses under the Bus Reform Initiative (BRI) with free service on five routes in commemoration of Labour’s day.

The five routes are Berger to Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Berger to Oshodi, Oshodi to TBS, Ikeja to Alausa and Ikeja to Oshodi to commemorate the Workers Days.

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