FASHOLA DRAWS BATTLE LINE…DARES STATE ASSEMBLY

ULD by ol’Victor Ojelabi

There had been no indication of a freeze in relationship between the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola and the legislative arm of the government of Lagos State, at least, not until this past Friday, 2 January, 2009.

The signing ceremony into law of the state’s 2009 Appropriation Bill had been scheduled for the State House on the date and as at 10.00a.m; in the audience waiting for the Governor were the state Deputy Speaker, Mrs. Adefunmilayo Tejuosho, the House Chief-Whip, Mr. Abdul-Rasaq Balogun, the House Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Mr. Kolapo Korede Oshunsanya and Mr. Onibiyo Adelabu, a member of the State House of Assembly. Also present were some members of the State Executive Council; the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Sarah Sosan, Commissioner for Transport, Prof. Bamidele Badejo, Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Muiz Banire and the Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperative, Chief Enoch Ajiboso. The state Head of Service, Mr. Yakubu Balogun and the Special Adviser on Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, were also in the audience that had a heavy presence of members of the media that were invited to cover the signing ceremony of the N405billion Appropriation Bill into law as passed by the State House of Assembly.

Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, has a reputation for time consciousness, so when it was more than one hour past the scheduled time for the signing ceremony and the Governor had not emerged from his office in the State House to the venue of the signing ceremony in the same State House, it emerged that a stand-off between the Governor and the State House of Assembly was in the offing. At about 11.30 a.m; the Governor’s Special Adviser on Legislative and Political Matters, Mr. AbdulLateef AbdulHakeem, informed the audience that Mr. Fashola would not be available to sign the appropriation bill because his attention was urgently required at another function.

Immediately after the announcement, the tension in the State House became palpable as traffic of government officials in and out of the Governor’s Office became frantic but it was to the office of the Speaker of the State’s House of Assembly that the frenzy of the underlining tension in the assembly became noticeable. The absence of the Speaker at the venue of the signing ceremony even when it was obvious he was at his office, a stone throw from the Governor’s office, had raised silent concerns among those that understand the nature of political alignment in the state.

Even more curious was the fact that just a few cabinet members of the Governor’s Executive Council were present at the aborted signing ceremony, of significant concern was the fact that State Commissioner for Budget, Mr. Ben Akabueze and the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele, were not present at the venue.

Meanwhile, as the event of the signing ceremony of the appropriation bill was suddenly called off with the announcement of the Special Adviser on Legislative and Political Matters to the audience, it became obvious the contents of the appropriation bill as approved by the State Assembly must have roused the resentment of the Governor.

Mr. Fashola had, on Monday, 10 November, 2008 presented the year’s budget of N405 billion to the State House of Assembly for the mandatory legislative debate and review. On Tuesday, 30 December, 2009, the Chairman of the House Appropriation Committee presented the report of the committee on the budget. The report recommended that the sum of N405 billion be approved as presented by the Governor even as the sum of N159.284 billion was recommended for approval by the Appropriation Committee as proposed by the Governor and the sum of N245.716 billion be approved as total capital expenditure also as proposed by the Governor. The State House of Assembly allowed the recommendations of the Appropriation Committee and passed the bill at the same sitting.

If the House had approved the budget proposal as presented by the Governor, what then could be responsible for obvious act of refusal by the Governor to sign the bill into law? Source close to the State House informed that the House imputed a self-accounting procedure into the bill.

“The House decided to create its own funding sub-head and required that the State Assembly funding should be independent of Executive influence under a self-accounting procedure that is alien to the Governor. I think this is one of the reasons the Governor’s refused to sign the bill,” the source explained. “Besides, the House Appropriation Committee moved figures around within heads and sub-heads of the budget. Though the final figure tallies with the figure the Governor proposed to the Assembly, the Committee removed funds budgeted by the Governor for some ministries and agencies and moved them to other ministries and agencies that they considered more needful of funding. This, of course, did not go down well with the Governor who felt that he understands the needs of each ministry and agency as they affect service delivery to Lagosians.”

The House has its own axe to grind with the executive arm of government in the State. The Assembly Appropriation Committee had, as part of its recommendations, canvassed the House to sanction the ministries of Home Affairs and Culture and the Environment for failing to appear before the House to defend their budget proposal. The Liaison Office, Political and Legislative Powers Bureau, Lagos State Building Investment Corporation, Lagos State Property Development Corporation, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency and office of Mineral Resources, were also recommended for sanction for refusal to defend their budget proposals.

As published in the January 12, 49th Edition, of Fortune&Class Weekly Magazine.

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