A former Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources in Lagos State, Mr. Olawale Oluwo and his Economic Planning and Budget counterpart, Mr. Olusegun Banjo in the administration of former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode have said the State House of Assembly never invited them for questioning.
The former commissioners noted that the assembly, in its resolution on Thursday, erroneously concluded that they wilfully or tacitly avoided appearing before its committees investigating 820 high occupancy vehicles (HOVs) the Ambode administration procured under the state’s Bus Reform Initiative (BRI).
Ambode’s commissioners faulted the claims of the assembly in separate statements they personally signed at the weekend, noting that they would be willing to appear before any ad-hoc or standing committee of the assembly if invited.
The assembly had threatened to arrest Ambode if he failed to appear before the assembly. The threat followed the presentation of a preliminary report by the committee set up to investigate the 820 buses purchased by Ambode while in office.
It claimed that Ambode and some former government officials had refused to appear before the ad hoc committee of the House. The former government officials include former Commissioners for Finance, Economic Planning, Justice and Attorney General, and Permanent Secretary, Economic Planning.
In his report, the Chairman of the committee, Hon. Fatai Mojeed stated that out of the 20 officials summoned by the committee, four did not appear, hence, the committee could not come up with a comprehensive report.
The chairman added that the committee also demanded the transaction vouchers for the buses purchased, and the only response received from the Accountant General of the State, was that she relied on the governor’s approval.
In a letter he addressed to the Speaker of the assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa on Friday, Oluwo noted that on October 10, the assembly passed a resolution threatening to issue arrest warrants, to compel his appearance before its committee.
He added that the resolution, which was made public in the electronic, print and social media, seemed to have concluded that he had wilfully or tacitly avoided appearing before the committees of the assembly.
Categorically, Oluwo said no invitation, oral or written, physical or virtual, was extended to him “in person or through a third party, either directly or by substituted means, to any of my official and residential addresses, phone numbers or emails.”
The former commissioner said he had no fear to appear before any committee because he had served the state “with utmost diligence, integrity and in line with my oath of office.
“Let it be known that I have absolutely nothing to hide and I am willing and ready to appear before any committee of the House of Assembly, anytime I receive your invitation to that effect.”
In his own statement, Banjo said that no invitation was extended to him from the assembly, noting that he was ready to give an account of his stewardship as a commissioner.
He cited media publications on the threat of the assembly to effect the arrest of the former Governor and four former commissioners that served with him.
“This is on the ground that we refused to honour the invitation of the House to appear before its committee probing the purchase of 820 buses during the tenure of the administration.
“As the commissioner in charge of budget at the time, this publication of the proceedings of the State House of Assembly came as a surprise. At no time was any invitation extended to me to appear before any committee of the house,” he said.
Banjo said though he was not expecting any invitation as he was never part of the bus purchase and implementation committee set up by the former governor before his appointment as a commissioner.
“I would gladly have responded to any invitation addressed to me by the House or any anti-corruption group looking into the matter or any matter concerning the period of my service,” the former commissioner said.
Banjo said that on seeing the publication, he called the Clerk of the House, who informed him that the invitation was sent to his former ministry. He said that he asked the clerk why no one called to inform him before going to the press, as his telephone number and email addresses were in the public domain.
The former commissioner said the clerk “apologised and requested for his residential address, which he sent to him immediately. I wish to correct the insinuation in the publications that I deliberately avoided the House of Assembly.
“I also want to state my readiness to appear before any of its committees, as this is the least required of me as a citizen of Lagos State and someone who has occupied public position in the past. I agree completely with the stance of the House for probity and accountability for those that held public offices in all arms of government.