By Mike Ebonugwo
The memory of what happened in the Lagos State House of Assembly on Thursday, December 17, 2015 will remain evergreen in the minds of many Lagosians for a very long time to come. It was the day set that Governor, Mr.Akinwunmi Ambode in a colourful ceremony, presented the 2016 budget to the state legislators.
As early as 8am, the Assembly complex at Alausa was already a beehive of activities as many Lagosians trooped to the venue to have a vantage view of the proceedings in the Assembly. Journalists were not left out as they tried to position themselves for the coverage of the event. Every available space in the chamber, including the gallery, was filled to capacity awaiting the arrival of the Governor.
It was indeed a carnival of sorts as drumming and dancing by various interest groups went on unabated outside the assembly complex. Despite what appeared to be a lax atmosphere, the security was water- tight and that provided a conducive environment for many state officials, politicians and lawmakers to hug and exchange pleasantries.
The waiting did not last long as Governor Ambode and members of his entourage arrived for the budget presentation. Ambode who was clad in a flowing agbada, was ushered into the chambers by the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa and the state chairman of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, Chief Henry Ajomale
Delivering the budget speech, Governor Ambode thanked the lawmakers for their co-operation and dedication in handling the re-ordering of the 2015 budget to meet the aspirations of Lagosians.
The 2016 budget, tagged: “The People’s Budget,” according to the Governor, would promote massive investment in security, transportation,traffic management, physical and social infrastructural development and enhance job creation.
“We plan to strategically build new infrastructure while we continue to maintain existing ones. Wealth and empowerment creation will receive a lot of attention as we commence the implementation of the employment trust scheme for which we’ll set aside N25b over a four-year period,”Ambode said.
A budget of N662.588 billion was proposed by the government, with recurrent expenditure put at 278.909 billion naira and capital at N383.678 billion.
Ambode explained that his government intends to focus on current challenges of security, gridlock, as well as physical and social infrastructure development in 2016
Responding after the presentation, Speaker Obasa lauded Ambode’s efforts at further developing the state. He assured the Governor of the lawmakers’ unflinching support to ensure the growth and development of the state
His words: “As you all know, our state, Lagos, the Centre of Excellence, has continued to be seen both within and outside the country as the very place where good governance is the norm, which readily explains why our state is home to all Nigerians, having maintained the status of a mega city.
It is, for instance, on record today that even leading members of opposition parties in our country readily attest to the fact that Lagos State remains the positive response point when good governance is being discussed.
“Here in Lagos state, the three tiers of government – the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary have always been striving to put our people first in all we do. The House of Assembly comprises industrious, brilliant and diligent men and women who are making a difference in their various constituencies.”
The Speaker stated that despite the distinct statues of the three organs, they have continued to collaborate regularly to deliver democratic dividends to Lagosians. He added that this had in no way prevented the lawmakers from performing their constitutional duties.
“This has obviously resulted in the first class opinion that our dear state has attained in our country today, which makes Lagos the symbol of good governance. The recent commissioning and handing over of patrol vehicles, armoured personnel carriers (APCs), gunboats and helicopters to the Nigerian Police and the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) to combat crime in the state among other things is a pointer to this affirmation,” he said.
Continuing, the Speaker said: “Let me therefore assure all Lagosians that the Lagos State House of Assembly shall continue to promote the best practices in the governance of our dear state. You can be rest assured that all honourable members of this Assembly shall continue to put you – our people – first in all that we do.”
He assured that “In treating this budget, we will not forget that we are trustees for the people. A lot has been done in the area of job creation and economic empowerment of Lagosians, but there is an urgent need to create more opportunities for our people. More jobs will definitely lead to greater economic growth.”
Worried by the worsening traffic gridlock in many parts of Lagos, the Speaker call on the Governor to find lasting solution to the problem. “We will like to call the attention of the governor to the situation of traffic jams in the State, which I believe he is so much aware of and has taken steps to manage since his assumption of office. Though this might not be his making but an inherited circumstance, we must continue to proffer lasting solutions to it. It is our thought that addressing the issues of traffic in the state will further simplify the ease of movement. We need not be reminded that easy movement of people and goods is pivotal to the development of the economy of any state,” he said
Speaking after the budget presentation, a chieftain of the People Democratic Party, PDP, Mr. Tobi Onajobi described the event as unique in view of the promise it holds for Lagos residents.
“I must confess that I am proud to be a Nigerian once again. What we witnessed shows that there is hope for our country if our leaders can get it right,” he said.