How Ambode outsmarted Lagos State Legislature in probe of 820 buses

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A former governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, appears to have outsmarted the state House of Assembly by approaching a court to stop the ongoing probe into the purchase of 820 buses and other financial dealings by his administration, Daily Trust reports.

The fireworks between the former governor and the state legislature have now shifted to the court following the decision by Ambode to institute a case at the State High Court to challenge the probe of the vehicle purchase and other financial undertakings by his administration.

The recourse to court is regarded as a smart move by Ambode as the legislature was poised to summon him to give account of the bus purchase.

The house is insisting that though there was a request by the former governor to purchase 5,000 buses for the state transportation scheme, the request was not approved. To unravel the circumstances surrounding the purchase and eventual supply of the vehicles, the legislature set up an ad hoc committee, which had other terms of reference aside the vehicle purchase.

The committee set to work, inviting the former governor and some of his commissioners. Two of the former commissioners appeared before it while the former governor and his Commissioner for Finance did not honour the invitation.

Those that appeared before the committee were Olusegun Banjo and Olawale Oluwo who served as Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, and Energy and Mineral Resources respectively. During their appearance two weeks ago, some online reports indicated that the two former commissioners indicted the former governor.

They however denied the claim the following day. Notwithstanding Ambode’s refusal to appear before it, the committee submitted its interim report to the house, based on which the lawmakers resolved that a second summon be served on him to appear on October 30, 2019 by 1 pm.

However, 24 hours to D-day, the former governor approached the court which in turn invited the speaker, Mudasiru Obasa, clerk and members of the committee carrying out the probe. The committee had Fatai Mojeed (chairman) and Gbolahan Yishawu, A.A. Yusuff, Yinka Ogundimu, Mojisola Lasbat Meranda, M.L. Makinde, Kehinde Joseph, T.A. Adewale and O.S. Afinni as members.

The following day the court, presided over by Justice Y.A. Adesanya, ordered the parties to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the suit which has been adjourned till November 20, 2019 for hearing of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.

The house, therefore, decided to suspend the probe indefinitely after the court ordered it to stay action pending the determination of the case which has been adjourned till November 20.

Ambode, who decried what he called “deliberate misrepresentation” of facts by the lawmakers, said the procurement of the 820 buses was well captured in the 2018 Appropriation Law which was duly approved by the House.

The ad hoc committee chairman, Hon. Mojeed, said the probe was adjourned indefinitely following the court order to stay action, thereby giving some reprieve to the ex-governor as he battles with what is termed as political ego war between him and the legislature which is set to call him to explain how he managed the finances of the state.

Though Ambode is a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), just like the other 40 members in the state assembly, the former governor is seen as an odd one out in the ruling circle since he left the coveted seat of Lagos governor.

This is seen by analysts as a manifestation of the internal scuffle in the APC which cost the former governor a second term ticket. On claims that the probe by the assembly was an act of witch-hunt or vendetta against the ex-governor, the House denied being teleguided in the issue. Hon. Mojeed, who represents Ibeju-Lekki constituency 1, is insisting that the house was doing nothing outside the constitution.

But the court’s intervention has clearly watered down the tension generated by the controversial intervention and the outcome of the case would indisputably determine the next course of action which has further exposed deep animosity within the APC in Lagos.

It has also fuelled insinuation of a grand plot to allegedly nail Ambode and humiliate him at all costs over some ‘sins’ against the party leadership. However, speaking with our correspondent, a former lawmaker, Mr. Fariu Arebi, said both the House and Ambode were right in their actions. He said it is a welcome development to want to see what the past administration did in respect of budget implementation and application of funds.

However Arebi, who is also an APC member, warned the house against dragging the institution of the legislature into the mud, saying he found it “objectionable” that the house claimed the former commissioners who appeared before the committee indicted Ambode when that didn’t happen.

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

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