Why lawmakers are after Ambode’
Lawmakers in emergency closed-door meeting; Speaker keeps mum over indictment on running cost spending
By Charles Kumolu, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Ebun Sessou & Monsuru Olowoopejo
THE face-off between Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State and state legislators took a new turn, yesterday, after protesters stormed the House of Assembly in defence of the governor.
The move by the protesters, who came under the aegis of the Lagos Peoples’ Assembly, LPA, came as another group, Lagos Liberation Movement, LLM vowed to sternly resist the alleged plot to force Governor Ambode out of power before his May 29, 2018 exit date.
The development came barely two days after the lawmakers threatened to impeach Governor Ambode if he fails to explain allegations of financial misappropriation within seven days.
36 out of 40 lawmakers of the house had at the plenary session on Monday, resolved that the governor’s action in allegedly expending funds in the 2019 fiscal year before laying the administration’s 2019 financial proposals amounted to gross misconduct.
The protesters who barricaded the entrance of the State House of Assembly Complex, Alausa, Ikeja, displayed placards that condemned their dissatisfaction over the lawmakers’ action against the governor.
Some of the placards read: We stand by Ambode, ‘PMB save us, Ambode is our Governor, APC is our party. He is a performing governor, we reject impeachment; Lagos APC should be careful, Election is around the corner; Lagosians love Ambode for his good works, We say no to impeachment of the governor and Enough of this intimidation of Ambode.
The protesters were, however, kept at bay by men of the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, stationed around the area.
In the letter by Declan Ihekaire, the group stated that the lawmakers and the executive were partners in business of governance, and urged them to work seamlessly for development of Lagos.
Ihekaire said: “Our credible investigation revealed that both arms of government are worried that the budget delay would invariably affect the ability of the government to complete various infrastructural projects commenced by the administration littering the state.
“However, if this impasse is allowed to fester into huge political conflagration, the state and the residents would be the victims of such conflict. Besides, the fact that general election is fast approaching, mischievous detractors of both sides would not hesitate to gain maximum personal aggrandizement from the conflict.
“This is a situation that has potential to disrupt the tradition of seamless transition of power and undermine its social and economic geometric pace of development.
“We, therefore, on behalf of the good people of Lagos state, call on both the governor and assembly to shield their swords and concentrate on the dire need to complete all the ongoing infrastructural projects in the state.
The Majority Leader of the Assembly, Sanai Agunbiade, escorted by three other lawmakers subsequently addressed the protesters as he assured them that their views would be taken into consideration by the lawmakers.
Agunbiade said: “We appreciate the peaceful way they have comported themselves. It is our responsibility to make laws and do other oversight functions as enshrined in the constitution.
“But the people also have the right to observe what we are doing and offer their opinion.
“The lawmakers here cannot fully reply to their demands because we are only four. We will report their opinion to the House and deliberate on it.”
It was however, gathered that members of the Assembly, later went into an emergency closed-door session to deliberate on the development.
Lawmakers in closed door meeting
As at press time, the crux of the meeting which lasted for several hours could not be ascertained.
However, Vanguard gathered that members were irked over the apparent “grandstanding” of the governor on the issues especially pertaining to legislators’ welfare in the days leading to the General Election.
Group flays lawmakers’ action
Meanwhile, LLM, in a statement, jointly signed by comrades Mark Adebayo and Olufemi Lawson, convener and secretary, respectively, said it viewed the latest move against Governor Ambode as the “height of legislative rascality and abuse of office by the lawmakers.”
LLM said: “We wish to call the attention of Lagosians and Nigerians, to the latest move by some members of the Lagos State House of Assembly, currently making an attempt to hoist something that is totally undemocratic on the people of Lagos where they seek to, for no justifiable reason attempt impeachment of the governor.’
“The Assembly, led by Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, has deviated from its statutory responsibility of law making, and planning to hijack Executive responsibilities.
“The Assembly is beginning to position itself, as a clog in the wheel of progress, and have refused to appreciate the unprecedented statesman role, played by Governor Ambode in stabilizing the state, despite the reactionary manipulations against his administration.”
The group also heaped blame on the current development on the former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
LLM stated: “This latest onslaught has totally unfolded a civilian coup in the State, keeping the Chief Executive Officer at hostage and disbursing the State funds for personal interest, will no longer be tolerated.”
“Rather than concentrate on more fundamental issues affecting the ordinary citizens of the State, the members of the assembly, have chosen to remain idle.
“They have refused to convene session of the House to consider the State’s appropriation bill, but are now turning round to hang their conspiratorial ineptitude on the hapless Governor who has tolerated and endured the shenanigans and humiliation in the interest of peace. Lagosians need to reclaim their state.
We’ll follow due process —lawmakers
Reacting to the series of protests and appeals by groups on the need to shelve the impeachment of the governor, the lawmakers, yesterday, insisted on following due process and the Nigeria 1999 Constitution on matters concerning financial infractions, impunity against the Governor.
The Majority Leader of the House, Sinai Agunbiade and the Chairman House Committee on Information, Fumilayo Tejuosho after a closed door meeting, told newsmen that the Assembly would follow due process.
Agunbiade said: “We are aware that Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode is our Governor and still the Governor of the state but he must follow the procedures of the law and should he fail to present the budget as expected the House would do the needful.
“We are going to activate the process of impeachment as stated in the 1999 Constitution if he fails to present the budget accordingly. We have given him a window of opportunity to defend himself but if he fails the House will go on with the process of impeachment.
“We decide to correct the misconception and the wrong information that have been fed to the public.
“We wish to state clearly that today; about five groups paid visit to the House of Assembly and in all what we find out was that, they have come to plead with the House of Assembly not to impeach the Governor of the state.
“We want the public to know that the major issue is the 2019 Appropriation Bill which by now we fill should have been before the House of Assembly because the stipulation of the Constitution is that the Appropriation Bill which the Governor shall cost are to be prepared and laid before the legislation should be done before the commencement of another fiscal year which is January to December and that is what we have been seeing in the Lagos House of Assembly for the past few years.”
Why Lagos lawmakers are after Ambode
Meanwhile, the move by members of Lagos State House of Assembly to impeach Governor Akinwumi Ambode was mainly informed the determination of superior forces to render him irrelevant, not the spending of unbudgeted funds as alleged by the lawmakers, Vanguard gathered yesterday.
Though the allegations leveled against the governor by the legislators, last Monday, bothered mainly on the state’s 2019 appropriation bill, it was learned that the lawmakers’ action was a culmination of high-wire politics between the governor and powerful forces in the state.
The issue, impeccable sources told Vanguard is not unconnected with sustained efforts at making Ambode inconsequential since last October when he was denied re-election ticket.
At the heart of the matter are several conditions given to the governor, which he considered unrealistic in the interest of the state. Prominent among the conditions was the order to stop all projects he was working on before the governorship election primary.
In addition, is what was described as the lawmakers’ infidelity to a pre-budget passage tradition between any incumbent governor in the state and the legislators.
Vanguard learned that Ambode allegedly provided N500 million to the lawmakers in accordance with the annual practice of doing so before the defence and passage of a budget.
However, the legislators were said to have deviated from the familiar path with the allegations they made against the governor.
One of the sources, who revealed these, said it was obvious the legislators were acting a script, given the manner they were going about what he termed baseless allegations.
The source said: “The governor’s rising profile despite the denial of a second term ticket was something that unruffled them. I can tell you for free that they thought the governor will become irreverent having denied him the return ticket. But Ambode saw the conspiracy against him as an opportunity to offer more services to the state and the All Progressives Congress, APC.
“He was given difficult conditions which are against the interest of the people of Lagos State. The governor, who is committed to his social contract with Lagosians, was even asked to stop all projects. Does that not sound ridiculous? The legislators are being unreasonable because there is no basis for what they are doing. They had passed all the budgets in this administration without any issue, why are there issues now? They are even doing all these after the governor had given them the money which precedes the passage of the budget in the state. ‘’
This is on the heels of a five-day ultimatum given to the lawmakers by a Civil Society Organisation, Legislative Probity and Accountability, PLA, demanding that they account for N28.8 billion running cost allegedly collected under the leadership of the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa
Should the House fail to respond to the allegations, PLA said it would use all legal instruments to compel it to do so.
The LPA said these in a statement by its Chairman, Mr. Olu Fajana.
The statement reads: “We are demanding that the Lagos House of Assembly should within the next five days account for how the N28.8 billion so far collected as running cost by the Obasa-led House has been expended.
“If they fail, we shall mobilise Nigerians of like-minds and legally compel the Assembly to do the needful. We have watched with keen interest the latest move by the Lagos State House of Assembly to impeach Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on accounts of alleged gross misconduct and infractions based on the 2018 and proposed 2019 budgets.
“While we will refrain from dabbling into the politics of this misadventure, we demand that the Lagos Assembly lawmakers must come to equity with clean hands. “It is not our duty to ask the lawmakers not to probe Ambode if he has committed any infraction, we dare say that the Mudashiru Obasa has been collecting N9.6 billion each year and has so far pocketed N28.8billion as running cost out of which the entire members have been paid only N2.4 billion in three years.
“Where did the remaining N26.4 billion disappear to? This question the Lagos House of Assembly must answer and fully account for this taxpayers fund before going ahead with their impeachment of Ambode agenda. It is alarming that the House collects N800 million monthly as running cost, out of which each of the 40 members collects N2 million.
“This huge sum amounts to N9.6 billion annually and in three years, the Obasa leadership has taken N28.8 billion from taxpayers for nothing! It is obvious that the whole essence of not allowing Ambode to present the 2019 budget proposal since last year is to cripple his government and make him vulnerable.’’