Akinwunmi Ambode, the immediate past governor of Lagos state, today October 15th, failed again to appear before the House of Assembly ad-hoc Committee probing the activities of his administration, especially the purchase of 820 buses for mass transit.
Recall that last week, the state Assembly threatened to issue a warrant of arrest for Ambode if he continues to ignore the invitation to appear before its committee for questioning.
When the matter was brought before the house today, the chairman of the investigation committee, Fatai Mojeed, told lawmakers that the immediate past Commissioners for Finance, Akinyemi Ashade and Special duties Oladejo Seye, who served under Ambode, had written to the committee notifying them of their absences as they were currently out of the country. Mojeed told his colleague that Ambode once again shunned the committee.
The Nation reports that the Speaker, Mudasiru Obasa, while reacting to the development, said the house will send Ambode’s invitation publicly through newspaper publications and that if he fails to appear again, then a warrant for his arrest will be issued immediately.
In the meantime, some of the former commissioners in Ambode’s tenure have told the committee that quite a lot of contracts and even major procurements made by the Ambode administration did not follow due process. The former Commissioners claimed that the former Governor carried out major activities without their knowledge.
Former Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Olusegun Banjo, revealed that the purchase of the 820 buses by Ambode “was not rooted through its ministry.” Banjo, who stated that he became commissioner in February 2018, said he followed the system he met on ground, which according to him was responsible for shady transactions on the buses that were procured.
“The way the ministry is structured, it did not allow us to function well. The N24 billion did not come to my ministry. We didn’t have a running system. As a commissioner, I could not approve one naira. All the MDAs approached the Governor directly.” Banjo said
He pointed out that the way the operation went during the last administration, “a lot of things could be done without the knowledge of the commissioners. It was not transparent.” The former Commissioner told the committee that there was no provision for the purchase of the 820 buses in the 2018 and 2019 budgets, stating no VOC was issued from his office for the purchase.
On unbudgeted funds, he said
“I don’t know what happens to unbudgeted funds when it comes because the ministry of finance does not inform my ministry, we don’t have a running system”.
When the Accountant-General of the State, Mrs. Shukrat Umar was asked if the budget for the purchase of the buses was approved by the State Executive Council, she said
“The State Treasury Office acted on exco approval. The buses were in line with Exco’s approval. I would not know whether the Paris Refund Club was discussed or not.”
The Committee alleged the Imota rice mill, light-up Lagos project and procurement of LASEMA Rapid Response equipment and engagement of the consultants were done under shady circumstances as revealed by the heads of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies during questioning.