Saturday, 18 January, 2020

Probe: Ambode’s lawyer denied entry to committee room,case adjourned indefinitely

Lawyer to immediate past governor of Lagos state, Akinwunmi Ambode on Wednesday appeared for the sitting of the joint committee of the state House of Assembly probing expenditures of the past governor but was not allowed into the committee room.

The joint committee has however adjoined its probe indefinitely in deference to a state high court ruling Wednesday morning that status-quo should be maintained.

The lawyer, Mr. Olaniran Obele from the chambers of Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), Counsel to former governor Akinwunmi Ambode, protested that they were not allowed into the committee meeting.

Speaking with the press, Obele said, “we came to represent Ambode but the officials of the House of Assembly in a military manner prevented us from entering the committee room.

“We brought processes from the court and letters to serve on the committee chairman and the speaker but they refused to accept validly issued court document, letter containing what the court has said to them but we were not allowed to go in.

“The former governor respects the House, he has sent his lawyer to inform the committee set up by the House that this is what transpired in the court, it is out of courtesy that we have come”, Obele said.

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“We were around, while the preliminary of the proceeding was on, but we were not allowed in. We didn’t come here to submit court proceedings alone, but we came to represent the former governor. If they didn’t take any step, we don’t have problem with that, but it would be very sad if they took any action,” he said.

The court gave its ruling Wednesday in response to the prayers of former governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who sued the Assembly, which summoned him to appear before its committee yesterday over the purchase of 820 buses without the approval of the House.

The House had threatened to issue a warrant of arrest on Ambode if he fails to appear on Wednesday after a public invitation advertised in about ten newspapers on Sunday.

Addressing journalists after adjoining till further notice, Chairman of the committee, Hon. Fatai Mojeed said the House sent its legal team to represent the House in the court.

“We started late because before we commenced sitting we had to get feedback from our legal team that went to the court and from the feedback from our lawyers we have to adjoin the sitting till further notice in respect of the court ruling.

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“We are lawmakers, we are not lawbreakers, we have to respect the court opinion, so that is why we adjoin till further notice. Lagosians should be expecting more from us,” he said.

On why the governor’s lawyer was not allowed into the committee room, Mojeed said it is against the business rule of the House.

“We invited the former governor not his representative, we want him to come and clear himself, that is why they were not allowed in and it is even against our business rule.

Also speaking with the press, Hon. Gbolahan Yishawu said that the House was not trying to witch hunt anybody or put anybody on the spot for any reason.

He stressed that the Assembly was not being pushed by any individual on the matter while recalling that the issue dated back to 2017, when it was included in the appropriation law but was not approved by the House.

It would be recalled that the Hon. Mudashiru Obasa-led Assembly had mandated the then Adhoc Committee on Transport headed by, Hon. Fatai Mojeed and Committee on Budget and Economic Planning headed by Hon. Gbolahan Yishawu to probe the purchase of 820 buses by former governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

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The decision followed two preliminary reports presented by two different ad-hoc committees set up by the House to investigate the 820 buses purchased by Ambode and to appraise the 2019 mid year budget.

The former commissioners involved included, Kazeem Adeniji (Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice), Olusegun Banjo (Commissioner for Budget), Akinyemi Ashade (Commissioner for Finance) and Wale Oluwo (Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources).

Over N48 billion was spent for the purchase of the busses and N22 Billion were spent on import duties. 520 of the buses are still at the seaport, according to Mojeed.

Mojeed said the Accountant General of the state told the committee that she depended on the approval of Ambode for the purchase of the busses and that no payment voucher was made available to the committee.

The lawmaker added that they also demanded for the budget instrument used for the purchase, but that there was no budgetary provision for the purchases. “They could not produce any newspaper where the purchase of the buses were advertised.”

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