Gboyega Akinsanmi and Oladipupo Awojobi
The disagreement between the Lagos State House of Assembly and the State Executive Council yesterday degenerated as the legislative arm threatened to remove the state Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, over issues revolving around the presentation of 2019 appropriation.
Consequently, the assembly asked the governor and Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Akinyemi Ashade, to appear before it within seven days to explain the spending of the state government while he had not presented the 2019 appropriation bill.
The Speaker of the Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, issued the summon at a plenary yesterday evening, when most lawmakers frowned at Ambode’s decision to send the 2019 budget to the assembly against the tradition of laying it before them.
Ambode had sent the 2019 appropriation bill to the assembly on December 24 with a note requesting to formally present the budget on December 28. But the assembly declined the request on the grounds that the lawmakers were on recess.
Subsequently, the assembly agreed that the governor would present the appropriation bill penultimate Monday, January 21.
But the lawmakers did not attend to the governor on the day the budget was scheduled for public presentation.
But at the plenary yesterday, the lawmakers claimed that the governor had violated Sections 120 and 121 of the 1999 Constitution, noting that the sections explained the roles of each arm of government when it comes to financial expenditure.
However, Section 122 states: “If the Appropriation Bill in respect of any financial year has not been passed into law by the beginning of the financial year, the governor may authorise the withdrawal of moneys from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state for the purpose of meeting expenditure necessary to carry on the services of the government for a period not exceeding six months or until the coming into operation of the law…”
After protracted deliberation yesterday, the speaker noted that it was important to give the governor a fair hearing over diverse issues revolving the presentation of the 2019 appropriation budget and the spending of the state government.
Obasa said there “has been violation of the constitution and infraction on the part of the governor. The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Commissioner for Finance and Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning ought to have advised the governor. They did not advise well.
“The most important thing is that we should let the people know that a budget that has been approved is already being spent. That was why we could not attend to the governor on the budget on Monday, January 21, when the budget should have been laid before the assembly. We must give him a fair hearing.”
The speaker, therefore, called on the governor to appear before the assembly within one week “to explain himself alongside the Commissioner for Finance. We can start gathering signatures for the removal. We can exercise patience and wait till another time.”
The lawmakers reacted to a report presented by the Deputy Speaker, 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. Gbolahan Yishawu, Chairman, House Committee on the Environment, Hon. Dayo Saka-Fafunmi and the Chairman, House Committee on Works and Infrastructure, Hon. Abiodun Tobun.
Eshinlokun revealed that the committee met with the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Segun Banjo, who according to the deputy speaker claimed, no money had been spent for the year.
He said that the Accountant General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem 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 2019 budget.
He said that they should have approached the assembly 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 31. But the budget was yet to be laid.
“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 adherence to the constitution and it must not be violated. “We decided to bring the report before the lawmakers for us to take action,” the deputy speaker said.
During the plenary, 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 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 1999 Constitution states that the state House of Assembly must approve all expenditures. Things are shutting down. Things are being slowed down. It was as if the executive was tired and that the people were complaining.
“It is as if nothing is happening in the state. Breach of the constitution and gross misconduct are being committed here, and the punishment is clear. We should begin an impeachment process if need be if the executive does not retrace their steps.”