GOVERNOR/ASSEMBLY FACE-OFF: How Tinubu Pressured Fashola To Sign Appropriation Bill

When Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, Governor of Lagos State put pen to paper to append his signature to elevate the Lagos State appropriation bill to the State appropriation act 2009, it was as a result of a parched work on tempers and what ought not to be in governance as canvassed by the Governor on one hand and the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly on the other hand.

As reported in last week’s edition of Fortune and Class Weekly, the Lagos State Governor had shunned the appropriation bill signing ceremony. Though he had provided no official reason than the explanation of his Special Adviser Legislative and Political Matters Mr. AbdulLateef AbdulHakeem to the seated audience that the Governor attention was needed somewhere else beyond the Government House venue of the signing ceremony, it later emerged that the Governor had misgiving over a certain imputation into the budget he submitted to the State Assembly especially with the addition of the proviso that the State Assembly be given its budgetary allocation every beginning of the month as a matter of priority and that it (Assembly) would only be accountable to itself. The Assembly was reported to have imputed this proviso on the strength of a self accounting bill passed by the first Assembly of the State and signed into law by the then Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Fortune&Class crosschecks at the State’s Assembly complex confirmed that though the bill was signed into law by the Tinubu its imple-mentation was put in abeyance throughout Tinubu’s tenure on account of the dominance of the Assembly membership by Tinubu’s acolytes.

Probes in the Alausa seat of Lagos State Governance asserted that it is this self accounting law and some other minor inputs that roused Fashola, Tinubu’s successor to dare the State Assembly, which has an absolute majority membership of the Governor’s Action Congress. Political insiders however, opined that the Governor indeed attempted to dare the Assembly at his own risk:

“I think it is the urge to take on the Assembly on a principled position that made the Governor to dare the Assembly the way he did penultimate Friday. It is obvious that the loyalty of the Assembly members is first and foremost to Asiwaju Tinubu, I real don’t think the Governor has a voice of his own in the Assembly to dare to take on the Assembly on his own.” An Alausa insider told Fortune and Class.

As it turned out, it was at the Bourdillon residence of Asiwaju Tinubu that the tension that had arisen from the Governor’s refusal to sign the appropriation bill was doused:

“I understand that the Speaker who was also ready to flex his muscle reported the Governor’s conduct at the aborted signing ceremony to Asiwaju with a threat to take on the Governor. Asiwaju called the Speaker and the Governor to a meeting at his Bourdillon residence, Oba Akiolu of Lagos was also present with the Deputy Governor, the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele and the Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Muis Banire.

“The Governor was compelled to accept the appropriation bill as passed by the State’s Assembly and was persuaded of the need to preserve the outward poise of unity and harmony between the executive and legislative arms of government in the State. We don’t know yet if the Governor would treat the self accounting input of the Assembly the way Asiwaju treated it, I guess we would have to wait till next month when the first tranche of allocations are signed out.” The source added.

Perhaps, what has become more worrisome for Governor Fashola according to a source close to the State’s Executive Council is what the source described as the distraction caused the Governor by those members of the Governor’s cabinet that have become direct reporters to his predecessor in office, Asiwaju Tinubu:

“Of course it is no longer news that Asiwaju selected majority members of the State’s cabinet without recourse to Fashola, so naturally, their loyalty is heavily skewed towards Asiwaju, but I don’t think that is enough reason for some members of the cabinet to be acting as official moles to Asiwaju. We’ve heard of one or two of these cabinet members always excusing themselves during cabinet meetings to go to the toilet only to use the opportunity to phone Asiwaju and give him an update on what they were discussing at the meeting. Governor Fashola had cause at a time to reprimand these Commissioners to be focused at the task they were appointed for than acting as news carrier.” The source said.


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.