Sunday Ani, Lagos
The Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, alongside his deputy, Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, the House Committee Chairman on Information, and Strategy, Tunde Braimoh, as well as the Clerk of the House, Azeez Adebowale sanni, over the weekend, appeared before the commission of inquiry set up by the House to investigate several allegations of corruption against the Speaker by the SaharaReporters.
Obasa, who took time to respond to all the allegations one after the other described them as the handiwork of his enemies, whose primary aim was to get him out of the way instead of raising the anti-corruption crusade of the All progressives Congress (APC) led government.
Obasa had on Saturday, June 6, appeared before a nine-man Adhoc Committee headed by Hon. Victor Akande, representing Ojo Constituency 1.
Responding to questions from members of the Committee, the Speaker, who appreciated the House for giving him the opportunity to defend himself, described most of the allegations by the SaharaReporters as unfounded.
He said all the vehicles purchased for the principal officers and other members of the House as well as all other expenses made by the House followed due process, and got approvals by either him or the Fund Management Committee (FMC), where the amount exceeded the Speakers N100 million approval limit.
“We bought Land Cruisers for Principal Officers of the House. Theirs are always higher than that of other members and that is why they are principal officers. All due processes were adequately followed in the purchase.
“We went through the Public Procurement Agency (PPA), which issued us certificate of compliance before the purchases were made. All the purchased vehicles were distributed appropriately. It was a collective decision of all members of the Assembly to purchase the vehicles. It was agreed at the parliamentary meetings held on four occasions, with the Clerk of the House as the Secretary, he said.
On the allegation that his wife collects N10 million every month, the Speaker dismissed it as tissue of lies, challenging peddlers of such rumours to provide evidence of such dealings. Allegation that my wife is collecting N10 million every month is baseless. I have challenged peddlers of such rumours to come up with evidence and I am reiterating it here. Such a thing has never happened and it will never happen, he said.
On the purchase of Prado Jeep, he said the same process as that of the purchase of land cruisers was followed. My approval limit as Speaker of the House is N100 million. Anything above that would have to be approved by the FMC, he stated.
On the alleged N258 million spent on invitation cards for the inauguration of the Ninth Assembly, Obasa dismissed it as untrue, wondering how anybody could come up with such wild and unfounded allegation when the budget for the entire inauguration was N61 million.
He stressed that the whole event cost N61 million and that N1.1 million was spent to print the invitation cards.
“It is not possible to spend N258 million to print invitation cards. Were the invitation cards made of gold? All we spent on invitation card was N1.1 million. The total amount spent for the inauguration was about N61.3 million,” he said.
On the alleged N80 million collected by two people as estacode for the trip to Dubai for the training of women, the Speaker said: There was a trip to Dubai organized for the wives of 20 lawmakers. I was there to declare it open. Two people collecting N80 million as estacode is a fat lie. We gave N4 million to each of the participants for air ticket, hotels, feedings and local travel.
“Air ticket to Dubai alone is about N2 million. Some of these allegations were cooked up to achieve something. It is not to raise the anticorruption crusade but to get the Speaker out of office. The House of Assembly is above common standard of excellence and we have to train people. This comes with a cost because learning is not cheap. I have never collected N80 million as estacode at a go before; nothing like that ever happened.”
On the purchase of eight Hiace buses for committee works in the Assembly, Obasa said the House felt it would save money having discovered that the House was spending a lot of money to repair existing vehicles. The buses are there for everybody to see with documents to defend the purchases, he added.
He also denied the allegation that he spent N53 million for a trip to Atlanta Georgia, United States of America, with his mistress. He said: We were invited by the Consular General for a programme in the United States. Later, the programme was postponed, but I had already gone ahead. I had to return home, but I had to call those still in Nigeria not to bother travelling until the postponed dates.”
On the allegation that the Speaker spends N17 million to maintain his house, he also described it as a lie, saying, it was not possible for him to spend N17 million for cleaning of his guest house as alleged by the SaharaReporters.
“They only remove documents and fly them around to please themselves. All our payments go through certain procedures. The expenditure had been there before I became the Speaker. There was no way I could have spent N17 million on cleaning my guest house, he said.
He equally denied cornering the Assembly contracts using his personal companies. He challenged SaharaReporters to show evidence of where he awarded contracts to himself through his companies.
On the report that he tricked former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to spend N350 million to host a meeting of the Conference of Speakers, Obasa wondered how that could be possible, considering the caliber of the former governor. How is that possible? He is an accountant, who rose to be the Chief Accountant of the state. How can I deceive him?
“There was no way I could have tricked Ambode to release such money. We had a meeting of the Conference of Speakers, who came with three members each and we had subcommittees that received N2 million each. We paid for the tickets of each Speaker, their hotel accommodations, feeding and souvenirs.
“We also provided local transportation for them. The story was just one of those deliberate attempts by my enemies to achieve their sinister aim. That is why they are putting out all these nonsense.
On the N60 million spent for social influencers, Obasa denied any knowledge of that even as he said he never signed such money.
On the allegation that he owns several companies, which he operates with different names, BVN and dates of birth, he said: I don’t even know the companies they are talking about. The BVN they are flying about is not correct. Whatever I have done as a Speaker, including all the approvals, were done with the understanding and collaboration of all the members of the House of Assembly, the Speaker told the committee.
However, the Deputy Speaker, who also appeared before the panel, denied attending the meeting in Dubai as reported by the SaharaReporters. He said he never received a dime; neither did he receive any letter to attend any seminar.
Equally, the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, and Strategy, Braimoh, admitted that the House held a media parley, but denied knowledge of how much was spent on the event, since different people handled different aspects of the event.
“We provided hospitality for the few people that attended. The event involved catering and other things that were given to other people to handle. It is most uncharitable and mischievous to say we spent N60 million for social media influencers. We spend money on publicity and public relations.
“We have programmes that we pay for on Television Continental (TVC) and Lagos television (LTV). We have a magazine that we produce and we print 40,000 copies quarterly and distribute to schools and other places and we pay for the content, design and production,” he said.
Also, the Clerk of the House, Mr. Sanni, defended the estacode for the Atlanta Georgia, US trip, insisting that it followed the standard procedure, and that the programme was budgeted for under conferences and seminars.
On the purchase of vehicles for the Assembly, Sanni said: “We did not buy 11 buses. We bought eight Hiace buses for committee assignments. The cost exceeded N100 million, so it was approved by the Fund Management Committee of the House. It was also approved by the Public Procurement Agency and the Ministerial Tenders Board and we got a Certificate of Compliance for the purchase. The buses are in place at the car park. We have budgetary provision for the vehicles.”
On the Dubai trip, he also said: The women trip to Dubai was also approved for in the budget. The Speaker, the wife of the Deputy Speaker and wives of 17 other lawmakers were there. Each participant got money for air fare, local transportation and others.”
Sanni also clarified the issue of N258 million alleged to have been spent on invitation card, saying the money for the whole event was N61 million and that only N1.1 million was spent to print the programme for the event.
He also confirmed that 80 cars were bought in 11 months for the Eighth and Ninth Assemblies. “We bought 40 Corolla Cars as back-up vehicles for the Eighth Assembly. The purchase was approved by the Management Committee led by the Speaker with Olumuyiwa Jimoh, Saka Fafunmi, David Setonji and others as members.
“In the Ninth Assembly, we bought Toyota Prado for members and this was approved by the Funds Management Committee headed by the Speaker. The issue of the vehicle was discussed at various parliamentary meetings and it was unanimously agreed by the members.
“We bought 36 Prado Jeeps for members and it went through the PPA, which issued us with the Compliance Certificate before the purchase.
“We also bought six Land Cruisers for the Principal Officers approved by the FMC and PPA with Certificate of Compliance, he informed the committee.
On women empowerment programmes, the Clerk said: “We raised a submission for the programme and it was recognised by the Assembly budget. It was not paid into the account of the wife of the Speaker. The facility manager has no relationship with the Speaker of the House.”
On how the Assemblys classified documents got into the hands of the SaharaReporters, Sanni, however, said some documents might have been released to the media organization through some disgruntled staff of the House. We have taken steps on that by transferring some staff.
“The files go through many tables, and there is no doubt that some devilish staff take pictures of some of these documents and send them out to these people.
“All the staff took oaths of official secrecy, which attracts dismissal when breached. Unofficial disclosure of information attracts dismissal in the civil service,” he stated.
However, two officials of the Zenith Bank – the Chief Compliance Officer of the bank, Mr. John Olorundare, and the banks Zonal Head of Alausa, Mr. Mr. Sanni Idowu Awe equally appeared before the investigative panel to clear the confusion surrounding the Speaker operating multiple accounts with the banks using different names and date of birth.
The bank officials stated that an individual could only have one BVN. They confirmed that different account names could not be used for one BVN. They informed the committee that Obasa has six accounts with Zenith Bank, but only two are operational as the other four are dormant.
Present at the meeting were other members of the committee including Yinka Ogundimu (Agege 2), Gbolahan Yishawu (Eti Osa 2), Lukmon Olumoh (Ajeromi Ifelodun 1) and Ajani Owolabi (Lagos Mainland 1).
Others were Mojisola Alli-Macaulay (Amuwo Odofin 1), Rotimi Olowo (Shomolu 1) and Akeem Shokunle (Oshodi/Isolo 1).