Members of the Lagos State House of Assembly have threatened to impeach Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, over what it termed gross misconduct and infractions on the state budgets for 2018 and 2019. Beyond the 2019 budget crisis, other allegations levelled against the governor was the slow space of governance in Lagos, and spending of monies without legislative approval by the state House of Assembly.
The lawmakers summoned the governor to appear before the Assembly within one week over the allegations. This is just as the lawmakers said they would start gathering signatures for possible commencement of impeachment process against the governor. Of all the 34 lawmakers that spoke at the plenary session, 28 called for impeachment of the governor, while six of them demanded Ambode’s resignation if he cannot address all the issues raised to get governance activated again.
The executive and legislative arms of government in the state have been at loggerheads over the 2019 Appropriation Bill. Ambode had sent the 2019 budget to the House last December against the tradition of laying the budget before the House. Presiding over the plenary yesterday evening, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, told the lawmakers that it was important to give the governor a fair hearing over the issue involving Ambode and the 2019 Budget. Obasa stated that there has been violation 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 can commence impeachment. We want to call on the governor to come within a week to explain himself along with the commissioners. “We can start gathering signatures for impeachment.
We can exercise patience and wait till another time,” Speaker Obasa said.
A total of 34 lawmakers were present at the plenary and all of them spoke in the same line of calling the ex ecutive to question over its conduct in governance. The lawmakers commenced the plenary about 5:10p.m. and finished about 6:30pm. Prior to the commencement of the plenary, the lawmakers were said to have been at a parliamentary meeting (private session) for about two hours.
Notable absentees at the plenary were the two lawmakers from Ambode’s constituency in Epe – Hon. Segun Olulade and Hon. Abiodun Tobun; Hon. Desmond Elliot (APC, Surulere); Hon. Dipo Olorunrinu (PDP, Amuwo Odofin), and Hon. Bayo Oshinowo (Kosofe). The lawmakers had reacted to a report presented by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun- Sanni as the Chairman of the Committee set up to look into the issues surrounding the 2019 budget during a parliamentary meeting of the lawmakers.
Members of the committee included Hon. Moshood Oshun, 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 Environment; Hon. Dayo Saka-Fafunmi and the Chairman, House Committee on Works and Infrastructure, Hon. Abiodun Tobun. Eshinlokun 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 for the year. He said that 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 the new year. He said that they would have to make a recourse to the House if they wanted to spend up to N200 million.
Eshinlokun said: “We pointed out that the governor ought to lay the budget of the New Year before December 31st, but 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 20 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 adherent 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 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 these were misnomers, 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, things are being slowed down by the government.
He said that it was as if the executive was tired and that the people were complaining.
“It is as if nothing is happening in the state now. Breach of the constitution and gross misconduct are being committed here, and the punishment is clear.
“We should begin an im-peachment process if need be, if the executive does not retrace its steps,” he said. This was corroborated by Hon. Tunde Braimoh, who said that the manner of revelation was of serious concern. He stated that they all swore to uphold the tenets of the Nigerian constitution.
He added that Sections 120 and 121 explained the roles of each arm of government when it comes to financial expenditure. “If we continue like this, it means we are moving on the ebb of destruction. The issue of gross misconduct should be closely looked into and necessary sanctions applied,” he said.
This was supported by Hon. Bisi Yusuf, who pointed out that the governor is an accountant, and that he was an Acting Auditor General in 2001 and was confirmed in 2005.
“With his level of exposure, he cannot claim ignorance. He is being surrounded by intellectuals, so they ought to have advised him, including the Deputy Governor and the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning. “The Attorney General ought to have been removed for quoting a law that does not exist.
“All those who are giving the governor bad advice should be removed. In the whole of Lagos, things have shut down. This is an offence that is not pardonable. I want to say this is an impeachable offence for the governor and the commissioners,” he said.
On his part, Hon. Rotimi Olowo said rewriting of the budget is an impeachable offence. “The government has been shut down and our roads are in a sorry state.
There must be continuity of projects in the budget and this is not followed. “Borrowing without informing the house is impeachable. IPP is being owed. If the governor is tired, he should resign,” Olowo said. For Hon. Moshood Oshun, “When you apply for a job, and you are given, if you are tired, you can leave. If the governor is tired, he should go.
The budget is a law, when we pass a budget, they rewrite their own. “What they say is that they are above the law. If you go to Alausa today, all the MDAs are shutdown. All their files are with the governor and he did not work on them.”
Also speaking at the plenary, Hon. Rasheed Makinde said: “All government agencies have been rendered useless, civil servants are sleeping in their offices.
We must pass a vote of no confidence in the Attorney General, Commissioners for Budget, Finance, the governor and the deputy governor,” he said.
They stressed that it was clear that there are infractions and impeachable offence committed, adding that the defences of the commissioners are not tenable. The House adjourned sitting to Monday 4th February.