2019 budget: Why Ambode is afraid to appear before Lagos Assembly

There is no sophistry to dress up the naked fact that there exist a frosty relationship between the executive and the legislative arms of government in Lagos state, in recent time. Temitope Musowo writes on some issues standing between them.

Handled with maturity?

What many do not contemplate is whether the two arms of government would be mature enough to ensure their differences do not affect the processes of governance and the general wellbeing of Lagosians at large.

It all started during  the July 22 Local Government Election in 2017,when the governor, who wanted to  build his own political structure in the state, sponsored  candidates against the wish of some party leaders, including lawmakers who believed they should be the ones to determine who gets what in their own constituencies, especially to secure their own political future.

 Ambode did not really succeed at installing his men as LG chairmen, therefore, he went further to hand over list of people to be appointed as supervisory councilors to the elected chairmen of the 20 LG and the 37 LCDs. Some LGs honoured his list while others like Alimosho (which is still largely being controlled by Ogbeni Rauf Aregebsole, former governor of Osun state), Agege LG (Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Rt Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa’s own ) and Kosofe LG (a where the right hand man of Asiwaju and the APC Lagos East Senatorial candidate, Hon Bayo, Osiniwo, (aka, Pepper represents), threw Ambode’s list to the dustbin. 

Executive, Legislative row began

The governor started sowing seed of discord when he subsequently decided to punish those LGs and LCDAs who went ahead to appoint their supervisory councillors in defiance to his wish by confiscating their allocation for 3 months. It took the intervention of the party leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for him to back down.

According to a source from the State House, Tinubu had told Ambode to release their allocation and learn to concede certain things to some people because you cannot win all times in politics. He further asked the governor to leave politics and face governance.

This was when he was able to go before the House to present the 2018 budget, though late in December 2017.

To get back at him through the 2018 budget, the House moved all money planted as budget sub- heads under different MDAs, which were not convincingly defended during budget defence, moved down to the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning’s budget, which means the governor cannot touch those funds without coming back to the House for budget reordering, otherwise, that would amount to misappropriation of fund, an impeachable offence under the law.

Ordinarily, the House would overlook those low hanging fruits that could easily be plucked when the going was good, even when they discovered that the funds were planted by the governor to finance the Lagos City Bus Transport project, the House insisted it has not approved the project and cannot be funded under any guise. 

Ambode severed relationship with the lawmakers 

The governor as a retaliation also stopped the executive and legislative parley which used to be held on quarterly basis. The meeting is a forum through which the two arms of government dialogue and plan for the state, while the two parties also “smile home”.

The executive legislative row gets dirty as year 2018 progressed , At this point, many of the lawmakers already got wind of the likelihood of him (Ambode) not securing a second term ticket, so they were ready to call his bluff.

The battle line was finally drawn when 36 out of the 40 lawmakers signed in support of Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s candidature, against Governor Akinwumi Ambode, even before the party’s primary election.  The same House that was full of Ambode’s praise before he began to pick holes in his administrative style.

The Speaker of the House, Rt Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa, earlier in the year 2018 at a stakeholders/media parlay disowned the company introduced by Ambode (Vision-Scape) to take over refuse collection from Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), Obasa said at that meeting that Vision-scape was a ghost and not known to law of Lagos state.

As a follow-up to that, the State House of Assembly sometimes in October last year directed the 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in the state to reactivate the Private Sector Partnership (PSP) operators in their areas to remove waste indiscriminately disposed. 

This followed an Urgent Matter of Public Importance raised by Hon. Gbolahan Yishawu (Eti-Osa Constitueny 1l on heaps of refuse scattered all over the state. Obasa Obasa emphasised that the Lagos State Government does not know about Vision-scape. Obasa stated that there are three arms of government which includes legislative, executive and judiciary, and that the state government ought to have consulted the House on Vision-scape before they started operation.

“We insist that we don’t know anything about Vision-scape because we were not consulted before they started work. We once wrote the Commissioner for Finance, Hon. Akinyemi Ashade not to pay Vision-scape again and he would return any money he paid to them after our instruction to the coffers of the state government. We will get to that, when the time comes, but we have to do the needful now”, Obasa said in a rather hash tone.

The 2019 Budget and the surrounding controversy 

Against the annual culture of budget presentation before the fiscal year that the Lagos State Government is known for in the past 10 years, the delay in 2019 budget presentation is still being explained away through bulk passing by the two arms of government.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr Olusegun Banjo, on Wednesday 2nd of January, said the 2019 Budget proposal was already in the State House of Assembly. Banjo in a statement said that the budget proposal was forwarded by the governor to the House which was to have been read before the House on Dec. 24, 2018 was N852.317 billion.

The Commissioner said Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode had sent verbal information to present the budget on December 24, after the state Executive Council approval on Dec. 19. According to him, the presentation did not take place as the House was on recess and could not form a quorum.

He said in order to meet the traditional presentation, a formal letter with the proposed budget attached, was sent to the House on Dec. 28. “It is expected that when the House reconvenes, the Speaker will inform members of the content of the budget proposal sent by the governor and take necessary action,” he said.

In reaction to this, members of the Assembly decided to clear the air on news making rounds in the state alleging the delay in the passage of the year 2019 budget. The Speaker, during the plenary session of the House on Thursday 10th of January, said that there was no reason for anybody to shift blame on the parliament over the late presentation of the budget for year 2019, saying the House is always ready to receive and pass the budget if done properly.

According to him, a letter was sent to the House through a correspondence dated 28th December 2018, which is a total deviation from the norm of the House, a situation whereby the Governor comes to the hallowed chamber to present the budget to the lawmakers.

“We are representing the interest of our people and we will always do that. We have no resentment or bad blood. We are ready to receive the budget when the executive is ready. The head of the executive must be ready to perform his constitutional duties in this regard as stated in section 121 chapter 1 of the constitution.” he said.

Why Ambode is avoiding the Lagos lawmakers 

The usual procedure is that before the Governor presents budget, there is usually a bilateral meeting between the executive and the parliament where issues on budget provisions and needs of Lagosians are discussed. But the governor, who would not want to sit to discuss with his “political enemies” on any issue for now, especially when he is not going to be the one to operate the budget, seems careless about such meeting. 

He is also aware there is pent-up hanger against him by the lawmakers for not extending the “hand of fellowship” to them during the Christmas period, like one of them who spoke with our correspondent said when he asked him,” Honourable, why has Egbon Dapo not come to present the 2019 budget since? He responded, “don’t mind him, he is afraid of coming here, and we are waiting for him. The man didn’t do well at all, you won’t believe he didn’t give us anything for this Christmas.

“We are waiting for him because whether he likes it not he must come to present the budget before the House. All those ‘I have sent the budget before the House’, he is just wasting his time, he is still coming here. That one that members will be posing beside him to take pictures before, he will just come and go, nobody will reckon with him”, the lawmaker said in a friendly chat with our correspondent. 

Another report has it that the governor wanted to present the budget quietly without the usual ceremony of inviting party members, with singing and dancing accompanying a typical budget presentation in Lagos or maybe in Nigeria, or what is the point gathering together the party members who do not want you for a second term for the purpose of budget presentation.

There are, however, insinuations that the buck-passing between the two arms of government may likely end on Monday as the governor is prepared to come before the House for the proper laying of the budget. Whether or not this will happen on Monday, we are waiting to see.

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