Ambode Asks Court to Stop Probe by Lagos Assembly
•Court summons speaker, others to appear today
Immediate past Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has asked the state High Court to stop the bid by the state House of Assembly to probe him.
In a suit filed by his lawyer, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), Ambode is also asking the court to order the Assembly not to compel him in any manner whatsoever, to appear before it pursuant to the resolution passed by the lawmakers (defendants) on August 27, 2019 or any other resolutions.
The court has, however, ordered the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, to appear before it in connection with the ongoing probe of procurement of 820 buses by the Ambode administration.
Ambode is also asking the court for an injunction to stop the lawmakers from representing or continuing to represent to the public that he procured 820 buses in breach of budgetary approval.
The Lagos State House of Assembly had asked Ambode to appear before its committee at 1p.m today (Wednesday), to clear issues on some financial transactions that took place under his administration.
Obasa had constituted a 16-member ad-hoc committee under the chairmanship of Hon. Fatai Mojeed (Ibeju-Lekki I) to probe the procurement of the 820 high-occupancy vehicles, bought by the Ambode administration under its Bus Reform Initiative (BRI).
Apart from the bus procurement probe, the speaker had also mandated the ad-hoc committee to investigate other iconic projects – Imota Rice Mill, Oshodi Transport Exchange and LED-UK Streetlight project, among others, which Ambode executed in the second half of his administration.
However, in a move that is likely to stall the hearing, Ambode has asked the court to declare that the power of the state Assembly to pass a resolution, under Section 128(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) to direct an investigation into his conduct whilst being governor was subject to his right to a fair hearing as guaranteed by Section 36(1) of the constitution.
He also asked the court to declare the resolution to investigate all transactions in respect of the 820 buses allegedly bought by him derogated his right as guaranteed by Section 36(1) of the constitution and therefore was unconstitutional null and void.
He also asked the court for a declaration that “having regard to the provisions of sections 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the Appropriation Law of Lagos State 2018, Sections 8 and 9 of the law, which required the approval of the House of Assembly of Lagos State before certain expenditure of money is incurred by the executive branch of the state is not in accord with any provision of the constitution and accordingly is unconstitutional null and void.”
Another relief sought by him is that it was unlawful for the defendants to represent or continue to represent to the public that he procured 820 buses in breach of budgetary approval.
Listed as defendants in the suit are the Lagos State House of Assembly, the Speaker of the Assembly, the Clerk of the Assembly and members of the ad-hoc committee investigating him.
Meanwhile, in an order dated October 29, 2019 issued by Justice Y.A Adesanya after hearing a motion ex-parte moved by Oyetibo, the judge ordered the defendants to appear before the court today.
Others summoned to appear are the speaker; House Clerk, Mr. A.A Sanni; Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee set up by the House to probe the procurement, Mojeed, and members of the committee – Gbolahan Yishawu, A.A Yusuff, Yinka Ogundimu, Mojisola Lasbat Meranda, M.L Makinde, Kehinde Joseph, T.A Adewale and O.S Afinni.
Justice Adesanya ordered the originating processes and all the accompanying processes filed by the claimant (Ambode) to be served on the defendants and subsequently fixed today for hearing of motion for interlocutory injunction.
According to his statement of claim before the court, Ambode said contrary to deliberate misrepresentation of facts by the lawmakers, the procurement of the 820 buses was well captured in the 2018 Appropriation Act, which was duly approved by the House.
He added that having prescribed the manner of withdrawal of funds in Sections 3 and 4 of the 2018 Appropriation Act, it was unconstitutional for the House to attach another condition in Section 9 of the law for further approval to be sought before incurring any expenditure on the purchase of the buses.
Highlighting the specific breach of his constitutional rights to fair hearing by the House, the former governor said on August 27, 2019 during proceedings of the Assembly, some lawmakers thoroughly vilified and disparaged him as having purchased the buses without budgetary approval and that the procurement was a waste of public funds, while at the end of the proceedings, the House resolved to constitute an ad hoc committee to probe the procurement.
He said it was surprising that the very lawmakers who contributed actively in vilifying, disparaging and denigrating him constituted the bulk of the members of the committee, which was a clear derogation of his right to fair hearing.