Profligacy at the Lagos State House of Assembly

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Ring True with Yemi Adebowale, Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; Tel: 08054699539 (text only)

Ring true

Phone number 08054699539
Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

Lagos State lawmakers are evidently clowns. These guys, 40 in all, got so excited last year and decided that their wives should be sent to Dubai for a bizarre training programme. They quickly dipped their hands into the public purse, brought out N80 million and gave their baby girls; and the girls beamed to Dubai to squander Lagos money amid so much poverty in this state. The Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa was also in Dubai with the women to declare the training programme open. He took close to N8 million for his flight ticket and estacode. The lawmakers can afford this much for their wives because they have too much money in their kitty. In this state, the House of Assembly gets N550 million monthly as running cost. So, they must also irresponsibly spend public funds on their wives.

The absurd trip to Dubai by the wives of these law breakers is just one of the unending profligacies in the Lagos State House of Assembly under the leadership of coldblooded Obasa, who echoes that money is meant to be spent. This Speaker can approve up to N100 million without talking to the House’s Funds Management Committee. This man shamelessly confirmed the endless wastefulness last Saturday when he appeared before a dubious panel set up to investigate corruption allegations against him and some of his allies.

The suspicious panel was evidently set up just to douse tension and affirm Obasa’s leadership, following the outcry over corruption and abuse of public office by the Speaker and his men.

Profligacy pours in the Lagos Assembly. Obasa spent over N600 million on official vehicles for the lawmakers last year. The principal officers of the House got Land Cruisers estimated at N40 million each. For the inauguration ceremony of the state’s 9th Assembly, the reckless Obasa confirmed that he spent N61 million. Only God knows the kind of inauguration that gulped this much.

During the Ambode era, Obasa hosted the Conference of Nigerian Speakers and allegedly squandered N350 million. When the panel grilled him on this, he refused to disclose the exact amount spent on hosting his co-speakers. He tactically said, “We had a meeting of the Conference of Speakers, who came with three members each, and we had sub-committees who were given N2 million each. We paid for the tickets of each speaker. We paid for their hotel accommodation, feeding and souvenirs. We also provided local transportation for them.” I need to remind Obasa that the delegates listed collected money for virtually all the items enumerated from their states before landing in Lagos.

Even the Chairman of the House Committee on Information and Strategy, Tunde Braimoh, is unaware of how much was spent hosting that Conference of Speakers, “since different people handled different aspects of the event.” A confused Braimoh said: “We provided hospitality for the few people that came. The event involved other things. There were catering and others that were given to other people to handle.”

Braimoh has every reason to be “confused”. The committee he heads gets generous approvals from Obasa to manage the media. Recently, he got a startling cash to host social media influencers. The panel hesitantly grilled him on this and his response was unconvincing. Braimoh said: “It is most uncharitable to say we spent N47.5 million for social media influencers. We spend money on publicity and public relations. We have programmes that we pay for on TVC and LTV 8. We have a magazine that we produce and we print 40,000 copies quarterly and distribute to schools and other places and we pay for the content, design and production.” Braimoh evidently does not even know the meaning of Media and Public Relations.

Obasa and his clique are persistently abroad for one useless seminar or conference. The amount spent on tickets and estacode for these is frightening. There was this particular one planned by the United States’ Consular General. Obasa and some other lawmakers registered for, but the programme was eventually postponed. Shockingly, Obasa still travelled to the US, with the excuse that he did not know that the seminar had been postponed. Haba! How is this possible? How will a seminar be postponed without the organisers informing participants? Did Obasa return the estacode collected? The Lagos Speaker was not even asked these basic questions by the jaundiced panel.

Obasa is a very crafty guy. The panel was populated by his boys; the likes of Victor Akande, Yinka Ogundimu, Gbolahan Yishawu, Lukmon Olumoh, Ajani Owolabi, Mojisola Alli-Macaulay, Rotimi Olowo and Akeem Shokunle. Its sitting was just a charade. I was not surprised when the farce called panel cleared Obasa of all corruption allegations on Monday. Members of the panel and the speaker are all in this game of deceit together. They are partners, benefitting from the extravagance in the House. The few credible legislators left in this Lagos House like Rotimi Abiru, Olumuyiwa Jimoh, Moshood Oshun and Kazeem Adewale are persistently harassed by Obasa.
It was heart-wrenching reading the report of the panel, which concluded that all the allegations made against the speaker were “frivolous”. The panel was only interested in getting all the civil servants that exposed the extravagance sacked. That was why it recommended that the Clerk of the House, Azeez Sanni, should investigate how documents on the speaker were leaked, during the presentation of its report last Monday. Some civil servants are already being sacked for this.

The image of the Lagos State House of Assembly is at low ebb because of unending allegations of financial misappropriation against Obasa and some of his allies in the House. Obasa has no business remaining a day longer as Speaker. To protect the image of the Assembly, he has to go. But this won’t happen because virtually all the members have compromised. This is where civil society groups must come in to put pressure on him to resign.

Lagosians pay heavily to maintain these legislators, with virtually nothing in return. From the N550 million the House gets monthly to cover running expenses, each legislator smiles home with N5 million monthly for the same purpose. They have too much money at their disposal. As a result, they are persistently coming up with all sorts of frivolous things to spend it on.

This is happening in a state where students sit on bare floor in some public schools. It is happening in a state where majority of people have no access to quality healthcare. The roads here are in tatters. Conservatively, 95 per cent of roads in Lagos are in shreds. Most homes have no access to public water supply; yet avaricious legislators each take home N5 million as running cost monthly. The entire house collects N550 million monthly for running cost. Just imagine what N550 monthly will do to hundreds of tattered roads in Lagos. Imagine what this huge sum will do to the state’s tattered schools and hospitals. These guys care less. They just want to line their pockets. What a country!

Buhari Warns Bandits to Surrender Weapons?

Some of the statements pushed out by the federal government on rampaging bandits in the North-west are often depressing. At times I wonder if they do proper analysis before press statements are issued. One that got me really very angry quoted President Muhammadu Buhari warning the bandits to surrender, after a meeting with Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State at the State House, Abuja. “Buhari warned the bandits to surrender their weapons or face disgraceful and violent end,” read a portion of the statement. He assured that more decisive military operations would be undertaken by government against the bandits in Zamfara, Sokoto, Niger, Katsina and Kaduna States. He (the President) assured Masari of fresh initiatives to improve security of lives and property in the state. Haba! The President still “warning” bandits that kill scores of Nigerians daily? This is preposterous.

Statements issued after every attack by bandits are predictable. The President will promise “decisive military action.” He will assure residents and victims of “improved security,” and “commiserate” with the victims. Everything ends there. Few days later, the bandits will strike again. The same type of reactionary statements will be pushed out. For how long will this country continue like this?

Nigerians are eager for a truly decisive action against the bandits. That was the message sent out by protesters in Yantumaki town, Damusa Local Government Area of Katsina State, on Tuesday, when they burnt a campaign billboard of the All Progressives Congress with the pictures of Buhari and Masari. The protesters bemoaned the level of insecurity in Yantumaki town and neighbouring communities, making reference to the kidnap of a health worker, Mansir Yusuf, and his daughter by bandits on Tuesday. The demonstrators, who moved from one end of the town to the other, chanted anti-government songs in Hausa and demanded improved security of lives and property. On Monday, the district head of Yantumaki, Atiku Maidabino, was killed by bandits. The Chairman of the APC in Batsari Local Government Area, Abdulhamid Duburawa, was also killed.

Residents of Yankara, in Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State also staged a massive protest on Thursday to express their displeasure with the unending killings by bandits in the state.

The Buhari government must rise above issuing press statements whenever bandits strike. The likes of Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna have been turned to killing fields. Traumatised Nigerians want swift action. The people want to see the bandits dealt with in practical terms and not press statements.

Federal Character and Petroleum Resources Agencies

In continuation of my expose on the unending lack of respect for our federal character law by the Buhari government, I am today focusing on the agencies under the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources. This ministry has eight agencies, with just two headed by southerners. The other six are headed by Northerners. Here we go: Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mele Kyari; Managing Director/CEO, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Sarki Auwalu; Executive Secretary,Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF, Dr. Bello Aliyu Gusau; Executive Secretary, Petroleum Equalization Fund, PEF, Ahmed Bobboi; DG/CEO,Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, NNRA, Yau Usman Idris; Executive Secretary, Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, Abdulkadir Saidu; CEO,Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, Effurun, Prof. Sunny Iyuke; and the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB, Simbi Wabote. These are the facts and figures. Facts are sacred. Here, it is six out of eight for a section of the country. Buhari’s appointments are evidently skewed. We must all insist on respect for our federal character law in the interest of this beautiful country. The story continues next week.

The Massacre in Gubio

Boko Haram fighters are still roaming unhindered in Borno State. I have persistently stated this. Forget about those lies by the military. The terrorists entered Zowo village in Gubio LG of Borno State on Tuesday, operated for over three hours, leaving 89 people dead. They did not go after men alone. Women and children were massacred. The villagers are still burying their loved ones murdered by the coldblooded terrorists. The tears are unending. Who will save the traumatised people of Borno State? As usual, Buhari issued a statement, saying he was deeply shocked by the killings and charged the armed forces “to sustain their recent string of successes against the terrorists.” Which success? Where? When? How? The military was charged to “extract a heavy price from the attackers?” When was such last extracted? The biggest drawback to this war against Boko Haram is the persistent fantasy success stories pushed out by the government, while the terrorists are taking lives in thousands. We can’t continue like this. Enough of deceit.