INTRIGUES THAT USHERED IN 7TH LAGOS ASSEMBLY
The 6th Lagos House of Assembly rounded off last month but not without its intrigues and manoeuvrings. CHINELO OBOGO writes on its highlights and the expectations for the newly inaugurated 7th Assembly
Highlights of the 6th Assembly
For a legislative House that is in Lagos, one of the commercial nerve centres of Nigeria, the Lagos State House of Assembly cannot be overlooked in legislative politics. Its proximity has not only given it prominence, it has enjoyed popularity over many other state Houses of Assembly.
Like the executive which is controlled by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the party controlled 37 seats out of the 40-member legislature while the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) had three seats.
But like many legislatures, intrigues, scandals and power play also characterized the last assembly. One of such instances was the impeachment of the former deputy speaker, Mrs. Funmilayo Tejuosho. After being accused of arrogance and disrespect for authorities, Tejuosho was impeached and replaced by Mrs. Bola Badmus-Olujobi. But hardly had the dust settled when certificate forgery scandals rocked the house.
A former member of the House, Mrs. Adejoke Adegeye and Mrs. Badmus-Olujobi were enmeshed in certificate forgery scandal. It was alleged that both women had forged the West African Secondary School Certificate(WASC) that was presented as criterion for political office seekers. Though both legislators denied it, the scandal cost them their return tickets to the Assembly Daily Sun gathered that the leadership of the ACN did not want to jeopardize their chances of retaining the seats.
Threats of impeachment
Hardly had they returned to the Assembly when a group known as the True Face of Lagos brought up allegations of misappropriation of public funds against Governor Babatunde Fashola. The group had appeared before the legislators on many occasions asking them to investigate the activities of the governor and impeach him if he was found guilty.
While responding to the group, the Speaker of the House, Adeyemi Ikuforiji had said that the state legislature will not hesitate in probing the governor and responding accordingly if found guilty.
'We are representatives of the people and we were elected to stand for truth and justice. We are going to look into the situation and if any party is found guilty, we are going to do the right thing. I do not want to pre-empt anyone by saying what we are going to do, but I want to assure Lagosians that this House will not fold its hands and watch,' he stated.
True to his words, the Speaker instituted a probe panel to investigate the allegations against the governor. However, this move was squashed when Mr. Richard Akinnola, a journalist and human rights activist dragged the leadership of the House to court and got an injunction restraining it from going ahead with the probe.
The budget crisis
Another event which deepened the crisis between the executive and the legislature was the passage of the 2010 budget appropriation bill. Following the presentation of the 2010 budget proposal to the House of Assembly by the governor, speculations were rife that the crisis which had already been brewing between the legislature and the executive will impede the approval of the budget. Not long after, the legislators sent back the budget proposal twice on the grounds that it did not support the plan of the government to get loans to carry out developmental projects.
Ikuforiji had said that 'this House does not support a situation where more money will be borrowed to add to the increasing debt profile of the state. We are supposed to be representing the people, and we do not want a situation where our future generation will curse us for borrowing money that they will have to pay.'
The legislators stalled the passage of the appropriation bill until former governor of the state, Bola Ahmed Tinubu had to wade into the crisis. Shortly after a closed door meeting with the legislators, Daily Sun authoritatively gathered that the former governor pleaded with them to approve the budget to enable the governor continue with the developmental projects he was carrying out. The legislators were later to reconvene on the same day and later passed the bill.
A total of 63 bills were passed by the House in the 6th Assembly.
The inauguration of the 7th Assembly
Shortly after the winding off of the April general elections and the winding off of the 6th Assembly, the issue that dominated the House was who the Speaker and the principal officers of the House will be.
For Ikuforiji whom it was speculated had a governorship ambition, the desire to remain as the leader of the state legislature was very strong. Losing out on the bid to re-represent Epe constituency in the House after he was allegedly rejected by his constituents, the leadership of ACN conceded the ticket for Ikeja constituency (1) to him. The seat which was formally occupied by Babatunde Ogala was what saw to his return to the House. One of the lawmakers who pleaded anonymity had told Daily Sun that Ogala had to concede to Ikuforiji on the instruction of the ACN leadership.
'The plan was that Ogala will be compensated with a political appointment since Ikuforji was going to represent Ikeja (1) which is Ogala's constituency. To my surprise, when the list of nominees was submitted to the House, all of us were stunned to see that Ogala's name was not included,' he stated.
With the elections over, expectations were high that the former majority leader, Kolawole Taiwo will take over from Ikuforji as Speaker. Already, the ACN had won the forty seats in the House as such, there was no opposition.
Taiwo, who is having his fourth term as a lawmaker in the State House and Tejuosho were the initial contenders for the position of Speaker until the leadership of the ACN waded in. Giving the circumstances where Ikuforiji neither won a ticket to the Senate or the House of Representatives, Daily Sun gathered that the leadership of the party had to implore Taiwo who was a more popular candidate to step down for Ikuforiji and be his deputy instead.
Shortly after the inauguration of the 7th Assembly by governor Fashola and the election of principal officers of the House, Taiwo told newsmen that he will not dispute the election. 'My purpose in this House is to represent my people which I have done till now. This is my fourth term as a legislator and I have all the experience it takes to lead but since my colleagues have elected whom they want, I will support the speaker in every way I can.'
A House with no opposition
Following the April election which saw the ACN clinching all the seats in the House, observers are of the opinion that the House of Assembly may not be vibrant as there will be no dissenting voices. However, if the House will be vibrant and exceed the expectations of the people is yet to be seen.