Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos
Justice Yetunde Adesanya of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, has ordered the State House of Assembly to halt the probe of former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode pending the determination of the suit he filed against the Assembly.
Ambode had instituted the suit against the State House of Assembly, its Speaker Mr Mudashiru Obasa and the House Clerk, Mr A A Sanni.
Other respondents to the suit are Mr Fatai Mojeed, the Chairman of the ad hoc committee set up by the House to probe the procurement of buses, and eight members of the Committee.
The members of the ad hoc committee are: Mr Gbolahan Yishawu, Mr A A Yusuf, Mr Yinka Ogundimu, Mrs Mojisola Meranda, Mr M L Makinde, Mr Kehinde Joseph, Mr Temitope Adewale and Mr Olanrewaju Afinni.
On October 29, following a motion ex parte moved by the counsel to Ambode, Mr Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, Justice Adesanya had ordered that the lawmakers appear before the court on October 30 in connection with the ongoing probe.
The lawmakers were absent from court during Wednesday’s proceedings. They were, however, represented by a counsel, Mrs Adenike Oshinowo.
Ambode’s counsel, Oyetibo, informed the court that all the respondents had been served with the court processes Tueday as ordered by the court.
“Your lordship directed that we serve the respondents with the court’s processes which has been done,” Oyetibo to the judge.
“We are ready for the motion on notice filed on October 28 and all the originating processes have been served,” she added.
Responding, Oshinowo informed the court that the lawmakers will be opposing the motion and that the respondents were served the court documents very late on Tuesday.
“We were served the Motion on Notice very late yesterday, my Lord, and we shall be opposing the Motion,” Oshinowo said.
“We shall be asking the court for a date to regularise our processes.”
Following the submission of counsel, Justice Adesanya, while adjourning the case, ordered parties to maintain status quo.
“This case is adjourned to November 20 at the instance of both counsel for hearing,” the judge said.
The former Governor had instituted a suit against the Assembly to contest the constitutionality of the probe of the buses which were procured based on budgetary approval as part of the Bus Reform Project of the State Government designed to revolutionise public transportation.
According to his statement of claim before the court, Ambode said contrary to misrepresentation of facts by the lawmakers, the procurement of the 820 buses was well captured in the 2018 Appropriation Law which was duly approved by the House.
“In section 1 of the Bill, the 1st Defendant (House of Assembly) authorized the total Budget for the year 2018 to be One Trillion, Forty Six Billion, One Hundred and Twenty One Million, One Hundred and Eighty-One Thousand, Six Hundred and Eighty Naira (N1,046,121,181,680.00) comprising the sum of Three Hundred and Forty Seven Billion, Thirty-Eighty Million, Nine Hundred and Thirty-Eight Thousand, Eight-Hundred and Seventy-Two Naira (N347,038,938,872.00) only and Six Hundred and Ninety-Nine Billion, Eighty-Two Million, Two Hundred and Forty-Two Thousand, Eight Hundred and Eighty Naira (N699,082,242,808.00) only as the Recurrent and Capital Expenditures respectively,” according to the statement.
“Part of the items authorized by the Bill under Capital Expenditure was: ‘LAGBUS Public Transport Infrastructure (MEPB); Part financing of 820 buses’ which was item 8 under schedule 1- Part C of the Bill.”
The ex-Governor added that having prescribed the manner of withdrawal of funds in sections 3 and 4 of the 2018 Appropriation Law, it was unconstitutional for the House to attach another condition in section 9 of the law for further approval to be sought before incurring any expenditure on the purchase of the buses.
Highlighting the specific breach of his constitutional rights to fair hearing by the House, the former Governor said on August 27, during proceedings of the Assembly, some lawmakers thoroughly vilified and disparaged him as having purchased the buses without budgetary approval and that the procurement was a waste of public funds; while at the end of the proceedings, the House resolved to constitute an ad hoc committee to probe the procurement.
Ambode said it was surprising that the very lawmakers who contributed actively in vilifying, disparaging and denigrating him constituted the bulk of the members of the Committee, which was a clear derogation of his right to fair hearing.
The embattled former Governor added that in continuation of the misrepresentation of facts of the issue, the House falsely claimed that an invitation had been extended to him to appear before the Committee and that he failed to honour it.