The Lagos State House of Assembly on Thursday insisted that Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode must appear before it and properly present the 2019 Appropriation Bill in line with legislative procedure and constitution.
This resolution followed observations raised at its sitting, after the Clerk of the House, Mr Azeez Sanni, read a correspondence from Ambode on the presentation of the Year 2019 Budget.
Sanni said that Ambode’s letter on presentation of Year 2019 Appropriation Bill, dated Dec. 17, 2018, was received on Dec. 28, 2018.
Raising an observation on the correspondence, Mr Yinka Ogundimu, the Chairman, House Committee on Finance, said that Ambode had not properly presented the budget.
Ogundimu, who noted that the House delayed its December break to receive the budget, said that the procedure of Ambode’s presentation of budget totally deviated from the norms of the House.
According to him, the House’s intention was to receive the budget before the short break.
He urged the House to address the issue.
“It is in the habit of this house to always go on break in December, which we purposely delayed for a while before we went on that short time break.
“Our intention was to really receive the budget and go on a short break and come back to treat the budget, but the budget was never received from the governor until we went on holidays.
“The letter came on Dec. 28, about three days to the New Year; there was nothing this House could do.
“This is a new dimension to receive correspondence of this nature at this time.
“We have a tradition that the Governor will come around and lay the budget before that House.
“We look at that whole process and it deviates from the norms and procedure of the House,’’ Ogundimu said.
He said that his observation as Chairman, House Committee on Finance became necessary to address the confusion surrounding the 2019 budget presentation.
“We are not the one delaying the budget. The normal thing is for the governor to present the budget,’’ he said.
Earlier, Mr Lanre Ogunyemi, the Chairman, House Committee on Education, said that the correspondence of the governor could not be considered as budget presentation.
Ogunyemi said that the House sacrificed the six-week recess for two weeks to receive the budget which never came till the House went on break.
“Now, the constitution is very clear that the budget must be laid before the House, and let nobody embrace the impression that this House is not alive to its responsibilities; we have always been very committed.
“Even if the governor brought it on Dec. 28, the second reading cannot come until January, if it is assumed that the governor’s presentation was the first reading.
“If the governor has not come, there is nothing the House can do. The House has always been responsible and alive to all its responsibilities,’’ he said.
Other lawmakers took turns to say that the governor had deviated from the tradition of the state, reiterating that the House had not abdicated its responsibilities.
The Majority Leader of the House, Mr Sanai Agunbiade, said that the constitution mandated the governor to lay the budget before the House before the end of the financial year.
“It should be laid before the House of Assembly; it is a document that the governor should speak to. So, this procedure must commence.
“Budget of the state must be laid properly in line with the legislative procedure and constitution –Section 121. The House is ready to work anytime.
“It is clear that we were ready to work on the budget before the Christmas break, but we could not work on it because we did not get it in time,’’ he said.
Agunbaide urged the House to handle the situation “in a usual family way and relate appropriately to make sure that the executive gets the procedure’’.
The Speaker of the House, Mr Mudashiru Obasa, commended the lawmakers for being mature in their reactions to the development.
“This is not the time for resentment, acrimony and agitation.
“We must have at the back of our minds that we have a stake that is beyond May 29.
“We must do everything possible to sustain and to hold in high esteem what is called government, party and people of Lagos, though those who have a very short stake can afford to do anything they like, even in the name of budget presentation.
“You have all shed light on the issue in a mature manner,” he said
The speaker said that the house went on break on Dec. 18, 2018 and thee first call he received on the budget was on Dec. 24.
This, he said, was on the willingness of the executive to present the budget on Dec. 24, while the lawmakers had proceeded on short break.
“We normally go on break for six weeks, but we went on break for two weeks in recognition of the fact that there might be need to receive the budget,’’ he emphasised.
According to him, there is no reason to shift the blame on the House that it refused to receive the budget.
“People were already in the mood of New Year celebration when the letter came on Dec. 28.
“We are always ready and there is no reason for us to reject the budget when it is done properly and when the executive is ready to present it.
“The essence of coming here is to do this job and we are representing the interest of our people, and we will always do that.
“So, there is no fault at the doorstep of the Assembly.
“We have a huge stake and we must protect that. We have no resentment, we have no bad blood. We are ready to receive that budget when the executive is ready.
“The head of the executive must be ready to come and perform his constitutional responsibility and we are also ready to receive him,’’ Obasa said.
He said that nobody else could present the budget according to section 121 of the constitution except the governor.