Two former Commissioners, Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Olusegun Banjo and his Energy and Mineral Resources counterpart, Mr. Olawale Oluwo, have denied some media reports that they indicted ex-Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode when they appeared before an ad-hoc committee of the State House of Assembly.
The Accountant-General of Lagos State, Mrs. Shukrat Umar buttressed the claims of the former commissioners when she appeared before the ad-hoc committee on Wednesday, confirming that the State Executive Council (SEC) approved the budget for the purchase of the 820 vehicles.
The commissioners debunked the reports in separate statements Wednesday night, noting that the reports were a deliberate misrepresentation of what transpired during at the proceedings of the investigative committee probing Ambode’s administration.
The Speaker of the Assembly, Mr Mudashiru Obasa had constituted a nine-man ad-hoc committee under the chairmanship of Hon. Fatai Mojeed (Ibeju-Lekki I) to probe the procurement of 820 high occupancy vehicles, which the Ambode administration under its Bus Reform Initiative (BRI).
He had also claimed that the administration did not seek its approval for the procurement of the vehicles and directed the committee to Banjo and other top functionaries that were involved to state their roles in the purchase.
At the proceedings, reports had claimed that Banjo indicted the former governor and that Ambode sidelined his ministry in the controversial purchase of 820 mass transit buses and that the way the ministry was structured under Ambode did not allow him to function well.
In his statement, however, Banjo denied the reports, noting that he did not say anything before the committee to condemn or indict the Ambode administration under which he served as the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning between February 2018 and May 2019.
He explained that he appeared on October 15 before the committee based on a letter of invitation dated October 11, requesting him “to answer some questions on the purchase of 820 buses as they relate to the function of the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget headed by me during the last administration.”
At the proceedings, Banjo said he told the committee that he was appointed in February 2018 when the issue of bus purchase had already been on the ground, pointing out that the bus issues were not contained in the budget he managed, though could have been in earlier budgets.
The former commissioner said: “I am deeply saddened and disappointed by such sensationalism by hitherto section of the press and by its uninhibited and deplorable abdication of a basic tenet of professional journalism- impartial reportage.
“I wish to state that I am not in a position to know what exactly transpired on the issue of the buses as I was not in government when the issue was tabled and approved by the State Executive Council and neither was I drafted into the bus Steering committee on assumption of duty in February 2018.
“My response to questions asked by the committee under oath was intended to explain technical issues pertaining to the operations of the Ministry and explain the anomalies they noted and seek explanations to, and nothing said by me there was intended to or said in any manner as to condemn or indict anyone.”
However, Banjo claimed that he brought to the attention of the ad-hoc committee that the operating system of the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning should be reviewed, claiming that he pointed out mentioned other weaknesses of the ministry’s operating system in a professional manner.
He said: “It is pertinent to note that these observations had earlier been included in my handing over note to the new administration and as it affects all arms of government and not the executive alone. I was therefore, contrary to the impression sought to be portrayed by the press, not saying anything new that had not been said before.”
In his own statement, Oluwo acknowledged that he attended the second session of the committee proceedings on October 15 alongside former Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Toyin Suara, noting that reports in some sections of the media were not true.
According to him, Suara and I were called into the conference room at the same time. The lawmakers asked both of us questions in the open. While Suara was asked questions about Lagos Rice Mill Project in Imota, I was asked questions about the LED-UK streetlights installation, a UK Exim Bank funded project.
The former commissioner said it was strange “to read reports that Suara and Oluwo said many of the projects including Oshodi Transport Interchange and others were never captured in the state budget. This is rather strange.
“For the avoidance of doubt, I reiterate that I did not and could never have indicted former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. I am a committed democrat, a loyal team player and a strong believer in the principle of collective responsibility.”
He, therefore, noted that the reports was completely false and indeed a misrepresentation of the proceedings of the ad-hoc committee of the State House of Assembly.”
Also at the proceedings Wednesday, the accountant-general told the committee that the purchase of the vehicles followed due process, confirming that the State Treasury Office acted on the approval of the State Executive Council.
She also insisted that the procurement of the vehicles was “in line with approval of the State Executive Council” but would not know whether the Paris Refund Club refund was discussed at the Council meeting.