Pro-Ambode Protesters Ask Lagos Lawmakers to Account for N28bn

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  • Gov must appear on Monday, assembly insists

Gboyega Akinsanmi

Hundreds of protesters wednesday gathered at the Lagos State House of Assembly, asking the lawmakers to account for N28 billion constituency allowances they collected between 2015 and 2018 or face mass action.

But despite the protest, the lawmakers have insisted that the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, and some of his commissioners should appear before it to explain alleged infractions in the 2019 appropriation bill.

The lawmakers were alleged to have demanded the sum of N100 million from the State Executive Council to facilitate the presentation and passage of 2019 appropriation bill.

The protesters, under the aegis of Lagos Peoples Assembly (LPA), have warned the lawmakers against plan to initiate impeachment proceedings against Ambode.

The lawmakers had at a plenary last Monday alleged that the governor had started implementing the 2019 Appropriation Bill without presenting it formally to the assembly, which they claimed violated Sections 120 and 121 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

But contrary to the claims of the lawmakers, the governor was said to have sent the 2019 Appropriation Bill and virement to the assembly on December 22, 2018, with a cover note, requesting to present the 2019 budget on December 28.

However, the assembly allegedly turned down Ambode’s request on the ground that they were on recess.

The assembly also frustrated subsequent attempts by the governor to formally present the 2019 budget.

They later agreed that the governor would present the Appropriation Bill on January 21, but did not attend to the governor on the day the budget was scheduled for public presentation.

The protesters, who displayed placards of diverse messages of grievance, claimed that the decision of the state assembly was basically to witch-hunt the governor, who according to them, had within the last three years achieved more than any other governor in the country.

Their placards reads: ‘He is a performing governor, we reject impeachment; Lagos APC should be careful; election is around the corner; Lagosians love Ambode for his good works; We say no to impeachment of the governor, and enough of this intimidation of Ambode’.

According to the protesters, they are asking the lawmakers to account for N28 billion constituency allowances they collected between June 2015 and December 31, 2018. The assembly received the sum of N500 million monthly without accounting for it.

In a letter of protest signed by Mr. Declan Ihekaire, the protesters stressed that they were concerned by the actions of the lawmakers against a governor who has considered the plights of residents as priority.

The letter said the legislative and the executive arms “are partners in business of governance. They must work seamlessly for the development of the state. Our credible investigation revealed that both arms of the government are worried that the budget delay will invariably affect the ability of the government to complete various infrastructural projects commenced by the administration littering the state.

“The fear of both parties which is well founded is that opposition would make case of the uncompleted projects as campaign items to disparage the ruling party in the forthcoming general election. No matter whatever other hidden factors, this is the main bone of contention leading to the political feud for supremacy between the governor and the assembly.

The protesters in the letter further stated that “the peace, sustainable development of Lagos and welfare of Lagosians should be the primary, sole and fundamental concern of both elected arms as well as officers of the state.”

According to sources, the lawmakers allegedly demanded N100 million from him to facilitate the presentation and passage of 2019 Appropriation Bill.

One of the sources, who spoke with THISDAY in confidence, alleged that after demanding N100 million, the lawmakers had also asked the governor to release public funds for their re-election campaigns.

According to the group, the lawmakers are witch-hunting the governor despite conceding defeat after the party’s primaries.

He has done everything to please some leaders of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.

In his response to the protesters yesterday, the Majority Leader of the assembly, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, said their opinion would be deliberated upon on the floor of the assembly because the lawmakers were elected by the people.

Agunbiade, who led three other lawmakers to receive the protesters, said there was never any face-off between the executive led by the governor and lawmakers, saying, we are only doing our responsibility as stipulated in 1999 constitution.

Meanwhile, the lawmakers yesterday insisted that Ambode and some of his commissioners should appear before it to explain infractions in the 2019 appropriation bill.

Agunbiade said this at a press conference he addressed last night after an emergency parliamentary meeting by the lawmakers.

According to him, it is only where the infractions continue that the assembly would apply the constitutional provisions.

“Then, we can start talking about impeachment,” he said.

He debunked claims that the assembly was witch-hunting the governor.

Agunbiade said the assembly decided to correct some wrong information and misconception being bandied around by the House resolutions on Ambode Monday last week.

In reference to the protest earlier held, Agunbiade said the assembly “is not saying that Ambode should end his tenure. Because of issues surrounding the 2019 budget, he is summoned by the assembly.

“The major contention is that he has started spending from the 2019 budget which has not been laid before the House which is against constitutional provisions.

“The budget is supposed to have been laid before the commencement of another fiscal which has always been the practice in the state, and unless it is laid you can not spend from it but the governor has gone ahead to make expenditure from the budget.