Nigeria: Alleged 820 Bus Fraud - Ambode's Commissioners Deny Indicting Him

17 October 2019

Two former commissioners who served in the cabinet of the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, have denied reports that they indicted their principal during an appearance before the state House of Assembly to defend the purchase of 820 buses by their administration.

Wale Oluwo and Olusegun Banjo said the reports were a misrepresentation of the proceedings on October 15.

Mr Oluwo, the former commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, in a letter to online newspaper PM News, said its report with the headline 'Ambode Shuns Lagos Assembly Again, Ex Aides Indict Him', included a paragraph that was not only false but a complete misrepresentation of the proceedings.

According to him, a phrase in the report had read that he and the former commissioner for Agriculture, Toyin Suarau, had said that many of the projects including the Oshodi Transport Interchange and others were never captured in the state budget.

He noted that of all the reports on other news media on the same event he observed, only PM News had the offensive reportage.

"That report is completely false and indeed a misrepresentation of the proceedings," Mr Oluwo said.

"For the records, I wish I state the facts as follows: I attended the second session of the Committee proceedings on October 15, 2019, and cannot remember seeing a reporter of PM News inside the Committee room.

"The ex-commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Toyin Suarau and I were called into the Committee room at the same time. So the questions asked both of us were in the open.

"Suarau was asked questions on the Lagos State Rice Mill project in Imota while I was asked questions on the LED-UK street lights installations (a UK Exim Bank funded project).

Mr Oluwo said he answered the committee's questions to the best of the information available to him and at no time was either of them asked questions on Oshodi interchange or any other projects outside the two mentioned above.

"It is therefore very disturbing how a reporter of PM News, purportedly designated to cover the State House of Assembly Committee proceedings, came about the report that 'Suarau and Oluwo said many of the projects including the Oshodi interchange and others were never captured in the state budget'... .this is strange,"Mr Oluwo said.

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During the session between the former commissioners and the lawmakers last Tuesday, Mr Banjo had said his former boss did not give room for ministries to follow established protocols during his administration.

"The way the ministry was structured (under Mr Ambode), it did not allow us to function well," he said.

"The N24bn (for the purchase of the buses) did not come from my ministry. We didn't have a running system. As a commissioner, I could not approve one naira. All the MDAs approached the governor directly."

But in his statement on Thursday, Mr Banjo described the media reports as a "selective and partial reportage" of what transpired.

Last week, the former commissioner had also disputed the House of Assembly's claim that he refused to appear before the lawmakers' committee investigating the procurement of the buses.

"To my utter chagrin, the press reports of my testimony before the committee are skewed in such a manner as to suggest that I had been scathingly critical of the last Administration in which I had served and had painted the executive in bad light," Mr Banjo said in his statement.

"It is instructive to note that the operational lapses in the other arms of Government that I also made specific mention of in the course of my testimony before the committee were deliberately ignored and were not reported on by the press in their coverage."

The ex-commissioner said he appeared before the lawmakers and questions were asked him under oath.

"Pointed questions relating to the activities of the Ministry were posed to me during the meeting," he said.

"I informed the committee that I was appointed in February 2018 when the issue of bus purchase had already been on the ground. I also explained that the bus issues were not contained in the budget I managed but could have been in earlier budgets.

"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."

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