By Chinelo Obogo
The Eight Lagos State House of Assembly had a fairly successful 2016, making a record 88 resolutions and passing eight major bills into law. The Speaker of the Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, while speaking to members of the civil society, who had converged on the Assembly premises towards the end of 2016, basked in the euphoria of the feat achieved in his one year as speaker.
“We have achieved a milestone, but in 2017, we would certainly do better”, Obasa told the gathering.
For a man who had faced very stiff challenges before he emerged Speaker, the success of the Assembly was a referendum on him and a determinant on whether he could secure a second term as the leader of the House. His predecessor, Ikuforiji Adeyemi, was not disposed to his emergence, Senator Remi Tinubu wanted Wasiu Eshilokun who later emerged deputy speaker to be speaker and many within the ranks of the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not initially favor him. It was his alliance with long term state lawmaker, Sikiru Osinowo, who is well connected and very close to both the national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu and Governor Akinwumi Ambode that immensely boosted Obasa’s chances. Party insiders say Osinowo led Obasa to Tinubu, Ambode and other influential party chieftains to lobby for the speakership and that made his emergence a done deal.
By 2017, Obasa had consolidated and made new alliances among the old and new lawmakers who had been elected in 2015, among them, eight members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In 2017, the Assembly passed bills into law; some were controversial, while others were favourably accepted as an improvement to different sectors in the state. One of the bills which were well received by residents was a bill for the establishment of the State Neighbourhood Safety Agency and control of Vigilante Corps activities in the state. The bill was initiated to further strengthen the state security structure and its activities especially at the grassroots level and aimed at improving general security in the state.
The bill to make Yoruba language compulsory in schools which was passed into law last year was also well received especially by the Yoruba speakers in the state. The bill makes the teaching of the Yoruba language compulsory in public and private schools in Lagos and also makes it a core subject at all levels.
Other bills passed into law by the House includes, Bill for a Law to Establish the Lagos State College of Nursing (Schools of Nursing, Midwifery And Public Health Nursing) and Other Connected Matters; A bill on Hotel Occupancy and Restaurant Consumption (Fiscalisation) designed to ensure that hotels and event centres remit due taxes to the state government; Cooperative College Bill, Environmental Bill, Sports Commission Trust Funds Bill and the LASIEC Amendment Bill.
The hasty amendment of the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) Bill just few days to the Local Government Election in the state was received with mixed reactions.
The APC dominated Assembly amended the LASIEC electoral law to enable political parties substitute or withdraw candidates three days before the election. The amendment passed the First, Second, and Third readings in the House the same day and was signed into law by Governor Ambode a few hours later. The House had rationalized the decision to fast track the Bill saying “it was in the interest of the state and democracy.”
But a group, the United Action for Change (UAC), led by the National Legal Adviser of the APC, Muiz Banire, a former surrogate of Bola Tinubu, slammed the action of the House saying the law was amended in a ‘hurry’ to make provision for the APC to make changes to the list of its Local Government candidates just three days to the election. The group also lambasted the APC over alleged imposition of candidates for the council election, describing the party as “undemocratic”.
The group said: “The legislative process to amend the LASIEC law came after the decision of the High Court of Lagos State nullifying the imposition of a candidate from Odi-Olowo Local Council Development Area. The legislative disregard for common sense and the hurried primary election held in Odi-Olowo came by, despite the fact that the time for nomination of candidates had elapsed and no new primary elections can be held by a party in default. The implication is that the amendment to the LASIEC law carried out by the Assembly was done to favour APC and some leaders. The amendment now allowing a political party to substitute its candidate three days to the election was basically to enable APC whose imposed candidate has been nullified by the court to present the same candidate, thereby necessitating changing the goal post in the middle of the game.”
Seven of Eight PDP lawmakers defect to APC
The 2015 election saw the PDP, the main opposition in the state win eight out of the 40 seats in the Assembly, a feat which was made possible, not because of the political clout of the candidates, but because South Easterners who voted en masse for the PDP were the dominant residents in the eight constituencies where the party won. It is a well documented fact that the South Easterners voted for the PDP in 2015 and the candidates of the party at the state and national levels benefited immensely from the band wagon effect from the way the South East voted.
By mid 2016, speculations of planned defections of the PDP lawmakers were rife, but most of them denied it openly. However, the rumours persisted. Insiders within the APC at the time confirmed that there were indeed negotiations between the leadership of the House and State party to ensure that the PDP lawmakers defect in order for the APC to have a complete control of the House and among some of the promises made was that if the lawmakers defected, they would be given automatic tickets to re-contest in 2019. The denials from the lawmakers persisted throughout 2016, but party insiders insisted that the defection of the lawmakers were already a done deal.
The former state chairman of the PDP, Moshood Salvador had revealed that the PDP executives were aware that the leadership of the APC had promised each PDP lawmaker a huge undisclosed sum to facilitate their defection.
“When I heard that some of the state lawmakers planned to defect, I called about four of them to confirm, but they kept denying it, even though we were told that the party hierarchy told them to keep denying it. We know the amount of money they collected from the APC leadership to defect. They were given forms of transfer to fill to indicate that they were defecting. The APC connived with them to break the ranks of the PDP because of the council elections. The APC will never give any of those that defected their party tickets; it does not work like that.
“They have caucuses and leadership, and they allocate tickets to their leaders. Can these defectors point to their leaders in APC? If you say you are going to join a particular group, you should remember that there were people there before you who would be given priority. They claim they are owing banks and the APC gave them money. They think they will go back to their constituents and see happy faces? No one will trust them again, because people in the APC will say that if they can be given money just to defect, then tomorrow, when they are offered a higher amount, they will also leave APC because they are unstable. They have packaged themselves into oblivion because no PDP member in this state have defected and remained relevant. No one will hear anything about them again because they would not be trusted. I advised them as a senior member of the party not to defect, but they did not listen”, Salvadoor said.
By mid 2017, seven out of the eight PDP lawmakers officially announced their defection to the APC, citing the crisis at the national level of the PDP and what they described as the outstanding performance of Gov. Ambode as part of their reasons.
The lawmakers, who defected are Minority leader, Akeem Bello (Amuwo Odofin II), Minority whip, Mosunmola Sangodara (Surulere II), Olusola Sokunle (Oshodi/Isolo I), Jude Idimogu (Oshodi/Isolo II), Dayo Famakinwa (Ajeromi Ifelodun II) and Oluwa Fatai (Ajeromi/Ifelodun I) and Victor Akande( Ojo I). The PDP is left with Oladipo Olorunrinu (Amuwo-Odofin I) who has insisted that he has no plans of defecting.
Last year was not without some measure of drama. After a protracted battle between the House, the State Government and the former Deputy Speaker, Funmilayo Tejuosho, she was thrown out of the official residence of the deputy speaker, which she was said to have acquired controversially during her tenure.
Tejuosho was nominated as Deputy Speaker of the House in 2007 but was impeached in 2009 for gross misconduct bordering on undermining the authority of the House as well as disrespect and violation of House rules.
Following her impeachment, she refused to quit the official residence of the Deputy Speaker, opting to purchase the house, but the former Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji and former Governor Babatunde Fashola reportedly refused her request.
The house, a double wing five- bedroom semi-detached house located at 3 Sasegbon Street, Ikeja GRA was later reportedly offered to Tejuosho in 2010 through her company, Debam Mega Solutions Limited, for an amount said to be far less than the market value. But seven years after the offer, she reportedly was unable to pay half of the amount she was offered for the house.
After refusing to vacate the property, she headed to the High Court to prove sale of the property to her company but the suit was struck out.
In 2016, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode set up a panel to investigate the sale of government assets in prime areas in the state running into billions of Naira after reports emerged that some of the assets were sold below market value. The panel presented its report which contained over 50 properties with the names of their buyers and the locations of the assets. Sources within the state government disclosed that some of these assets “were sold as low as N20 million.”
Towards the latter part of last year, the Assembly evicted her from the residence after sufficient quit notices dating back to over two years were ignored and the keys of the building were handed over to the current deputy speaker, Wasiu Eshilokun.