Governor Rauf Aregbesola
The Peoples Democratic Party last week launched a fresh media onslaught against the government of Mr. Rauf Aregbesola. This time, the bone of contention is the non-presentation of 2013 budget before the new fiscal year, writes Omololu Ogunmade
For the umpteenth time, the South-west chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is locked in another battle with the administration of Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, the Osun State governor. Reason: The governor has allegedly breached the constitution, having failed to present the 2013 budget before the end of last year.
Citing Section 121 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the party’s Zonal Publicity Secretary, Hon. Kayode Babade, said the provision is very clear on when a governor can legally present budget proposals to the state House of Assembly.
The section stipulates that “the governor shall cause to be prepared and laid before the House of Assembly at any time before the commencement of each financial year, estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the state for the next financial year.”
Since he assumed power on November 16, 2010, the PDP has maintained its stand as opposition party, giving Aregbesola a close marking.
It began with the onslaught unleashed on the governor over his decision to solely run the affairs of the state without a cabinet for nearly one year on the pretext that the state was poor and would as such, defer the appointment of commissioners and special advisers in his decision to save money.
But the Director of Bureau of Communication and Strategy in the government of Aregbesola, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, predicated the delay in the appointments on unsuccessful attempts to truncate the government of his boss through what he called an aborted impeachment plan by the PDP.
Okanlawon who described PDP leaders as corrupt and scheming to upstage the governor through impeachment by the then PDP-dominated House of Assembly, alleged an unfriendly attitude of the legislature when a list of caretaker committees for the 30 local councils was earlier submitted to it for approval as part of reasons for the delay.
“Nigerians cannot forget the evil intention of the PDP-controlled House of Assembly shortly after Aregbesola’s assumption of office in November 2010. The attempt to remove the governor, through the instrument of the legislature, the obstinate posture of the House over the list of caretaker committees of local government councils submitted to it and other clandestine moves were enough indications that all the PDP was out to achieve was manacle the Aregbesola administration to prevent any records of performance.”
Okanlawon, therefore, claimed that “political expediency dictated that the governor and his modest team continue delivering quality services to the people while awaiting a more conducive time to appoint his commissioners.”
In his personal reaction, the governor lashed out at his critics over his non-constitution of a cabinet seven months after he assumed office, saying the opposition lacked the credibility to fault his government after it allegedly failed to serve the people well for over seven years.
Soon after that, the PDP accused Aregbesola of masterminding a secession plot and of also nursing a plan to turn Osun into an Islamic state. These allegations came shortly after an initial insinuation by the opposition that the governor was not physically and mentally fit to rule the state.
Not long, the matter became a security concern as the PDP insisted that Aregbesola had concocted a plan to lead his state to secede from the country and therefore called on security agents to watch his movement.
The matter got to a head when a report said the Federal Government had mobilised virtually all security agencies in the country to put Aregbesola on a 24-hour surveillance over an intelligence report generated by the Department of State Security (DSS) which accused the governor of creating an army of Islamic jihadists, known as Ta’wun, as a prelude to seceding.
But Aregbesola’s party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), described the security report as a plot by the ruling PDP at the centre to destabilise the South-west ahead of the 2015 general election.
Spokesman for the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, warned against targeting Osun State in the pilot scheme of an alleged act of desperation by the PDP to cause chaos in the South-west region.
Other sympathisers of the governor urged President Goodluck Jonathan to call leaders of PDP in the region to order, saying PDP had had a taste of power in the region which was characterised by massive unemployment, corruption, poor standard of education and poor standard of living, among others.
Against this background, this renewed war of attrition is therefore viewed as a continuity of the battle for supremacy between the ruling party and the opposition.
According to PDP, having failed to abide by constitutional stipulation regarding the presentation of the 2013 budget, the state is already thrown into a constitutional crisis which it claimed could only be redressed in a law court.
It disclosed that among the 36 state governors in the country, only Aregbesola failed to uphold this section of the constitution by presenting appropriation bill before the end of 2012.
“As of today, January 1, Aregbesola has not presented his 2013 budget proposal to the state House of Assembly as demanded by the constitution. It is clear that Aregbesola, by his attitude to the law, has thrown the state into a constitutional crisis.
Any budget he presents now cannot be lawful just as it will be illegal for him to spend a kobo of public funds on anything this year. We will go to court on this for judicial rescue of our state from the present reign of lawlessness,” the party threatened.”
Further, the PDP said it was “embarrassing to the state and very unfortunate that Aregbesola is the only governor out of the 36 governors in the country who did not present his 2013 budget before the end of last year as dictated by the constitution. Even his colleagues in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Edo and Ekiti States complied with this law. Some of them have even signed their appropriation bills into law. Aregbesola has refused to toe the line of sanity.
“We urge all well meaning Nigerians to show interest in the lawlessness going on in Osun State. Everyday, impunity and barefaced illegality take the place of legal governance. Nigerians should note that against the law, Aregbesola ruled Osun State like a sole-administrator for over eight months without a single commissioner. Instead of doing what the law says, Mr. Aregbesola has just forced the 30 local governments in the state to borrow N502 million each, making a total of N15.060 billion which he is helping them to spend on some ill-defined projects.
“He has also just spent N35 million on New Year fireworks (bangers) in a state that is one of the poorest in the country. We will not keep quiet and we urge all lovers of rule of law not to be silenced by the propaganda of the government of the day in Osun State,” the party said.
However, reacting, the ACN in Osun challenged the PDP to without any delay proceed to the court to challenge non-presentation of 2013 budget by Aregbesola.
According to ACN, undue criticism of Aregbesola is nothing but the search for cheap publicity, adding that the opinion of PDP over non-presentation of the budget was a mere expression of ignorance and dearth of knowledge.
ACN’s Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy in Osun State, Mr. Kunle Oyatomi, advised the PDP to always clarify its insinuations before taking them to public domain. “If the PDP in South-west is not a bunch of uninformed persons, it should have gone straight to the court to challenge what it perceived as a constitutional breach, rather than seek cheap and senseless publicity,” he said.
Oyatomi who described the alarm raised by the PDP as flawed, argued that the Nigerian Constitution had anticipated a possible delay in the budget presentation and therefore made provision for spending Consolidated Fund ahead of approval.
“But for the avoidance of doubt about the ignorance of the PDP and to disabuse the minds of those who are not comprehensively informed about the constitutional provision on budget presentation and government spending pending parliamentary approval, it is important to state categorically that the Nigerian Constitution anticipated a possible delay in budget presentation; and as such, provided for the governor to spend money from Consolidated Fund within a period of six months pending approval.”
He also insisted that “there is nowhere in the law governing budget presentation that it is categorically stated that all South-west states or other states for that matter, should present their budgets on or before January 1.”
Given the argument and counter argument over non-presentation of budget in Osun State, all eyes are on PDP to make real its threat by seeking judicial intervention over the matter. This is because the judicial intervention will not only set the record straight as regards the timing for budget presentation but also serve as guide or precedent for state executives to follow.