6 January 2019

Nigeria: Lagos - Ambode, Lawmakers Trade Blames Over Delayed 2019 Budget

Members of the Lagos State House of Assembly are resuming tomorrow after recess amid the controversy trailing the delay in the presentation of the 2019 Appropriation Bill by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

Budget presentation before the end of the year had been the tradition in the state.

Reports had it that the state House of Assembly was yet to receive any letter of intention from the governor on when he would present the budget, despite assuring Lagos residents that the budget will cater for unfinished projects.

Ambode had presented the 2018 budget on December 11, 20 days to its commencement.

The budget, which was over N1 trillion, was applauded by experts as targeted at reducing infrastructural deficit caused by population explosion in Lagos.

But civil servants were stunned after close of work on December 31 without any news on the budget from Ambode; rather, the number one citizen of the state spent the day inaugurating the Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, and six permanent secretaries.

Even if the budget is presented when lawmakers resume tomorrow, the 2019 Appropriation Bill may not be available for signing until February considering the number of days the House of Assembly requires to deliberate before passing the bill for governor's assent.

However, following public outcry over the delay of the budget, the state government, said, last week, that the state House of Assembly was responsible for the lapse.

It also disclosed that the 2019 budget forwarded to the House was N852.317 billion, a size lesser than N1.04 trillion signed into law for 2018 by N193.683 billion.

The state Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Olusegun Banjo, in a statement, stressed that Ambode had taken steps to sustain the tradition on budget presentation, saying, however, that efforts had been punctured by taken lawmakers who claimed they could not form a statutory quorum for the activity to hold.

According to him, the 2019 Budget was already before the state House of Assembly and was intended to be read on December 24, 2018.

Banjo explained that the governor had sent verbal information to present the budget on the eve of Christmas after the State Executive Council approval on December 19, 2018, but the ceremony was postponed as the House was on recess and thereby could not form a quorum.

Assembly reacts

Meanwhile, the House of Assembly described the allegation by the state government as "baseless and does not hold water."

It was gathered that the state House of Assembly had been waiting for the budget since September 2018, and that the governor never communicated to the Assembly that he would bring the budget before the end of the year.

"It is funny that the executive was talking about not forming quorum. How did they know this? Would the Assembly form quorum after it had gone on recess. Which quorum are we talking about? Is this the first time Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of the state would be presenting budget to the House," one of the lawmakers told Sunday Vanguard.


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