House of Assembly seeks account of COVID-19 spending

The Lagos House of Assembly on Thursday  asked Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to account for expenses incurred from donations received in support of the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

At the plenary presided over by Speaker Mudashiru Obasa, the House asked Sanwo-Olu to introduce a co-chairman from the Executive to represent state’s COVID-19 Incident Commander before the House.

Obasa said: “It is our own duty to do what is right.

“The law says the executive will come forward to give account on what they have expended.”

Member representing Mushin Constituency II, Olayiwola Abdul-Sobur, maintained that the donations and grants accrued to the state government should be domiciled in the Consolidated Revenue Funds and the executive must be reminded that no money should be withdrawn from any public funds without the authorisation of the House.

“There should be transparency and trustworthiness on the part of the Executive and they should be mindful of the funds which are donations and grants that are not budgeted for,” he said.

The Chairman House Committee on Health Services, Mr Akeem Shokunle,  urged the governor to be mindful that the funds referred to were neither budgeted for nor in the consolidated fund or development fund.

He said the House would ensure proper accountability of the donations and grants in accordance with the law.

The lawmakers also  charged Sanwo-Olu  to refer to them  while declaring a state of emergency during peculiar situations like the  COVID-19  pandemic.

The admonition  followed the observation raised by the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), on a recently passed Bill tagged: ‘Coronavirus Pandemic Emergency Law, 2020.”

The Executive had sought amendment to the provisions of  the law requiring  the governor to take recourse to the House before declaring state of emergency and rendering account to the House on the spending of the COVID-19  donations.

The Speaker,  Mudashiru Obasa,  said during yesterday’s plenary  that, “It (the provision) is not depriving the governor of his power.”

He added: “It is our own duty to do what is right. It is for them to follow what we do in line with the Constitution. The law says, they will come forward to give account on what they have expended.

“If you set up a committee and the governor is the chairman, and the House committee later invites the governor, it will look like a confrontation.”

The speaker clarified  further that it would be better to introduce a co-chairman from the Executive  on incident command, who would be ready to face the House committee.

He argued that “now that we have an emergency situation, there must be an independent account set up separately, otherwise something is missing somewhere.”

The Chairman House Committee on Health Services,   Akeem Shokunle, read the recommendations of the committee on a report that addressed the observations raised by the Attorney-General.

The recommendation stated in part, “With regards to paragraph three of the observation, the committee is of the opinion that it is not a usurpation of power to create a procedure for activating a donated power.

“Section 305 of 1999 Constitution which gives the power to declare a state of emergency clearly stipulates the procedure to be followed in exercising that given power.”

“The committee also pointed out that we are all in these together, once Mr. Governor communicates his intention to extend the state of emergency to the House, it will expeditiously be dealt with as already stated in section 23(2) of the law.

“Mr. Governor should be mindful of the fact that the funds referred to are funds not budgeted for and it is not in the consolidated fund or development fund, but are donations and grants and since Mr Governor is so mindful of his public image, it is only right that we help him to so do which is why the provision of section 4 (2) of the Law is sacrosanct.”

The report titled, “Recently passed Coronavirus Pandemic Emergency Law, 2020, had rejected some of the proposals by the Executive, saying the governor should be mindful that the funds are not budgeted for.

However, a member,  Folajimi Mohammaed, had noted that following Quarantine Act, the governor might not take recourse to the House because it demands urgent action.

But, the Speaker argued that going by  Constitutional provision, the governor would have to come for accountability sake.

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