Nine of the 26 members of the Ondo State House of Assembly on Thursday passed the amended version of the 2018 Appropriation Act despite warnings by the other 17 members that such amounted to illegality.
The budget was earlier presented to the house by the state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, shortly before the house erupted in an impeachment crisis last Friday.
Majority of the members had impeached the speaker, Bamidele Oleyelogun, and his deputy over allegations of corruption and elected Olamide George as the new speaker.
But Mr Oleyelogun, backed the police and thugs regained control of the assembly, forcing the other members who carried out the impeachment to flee the state for fear of further attacks.
Mr George’s faction raised the alarm on Thursday over plans by Mr Oleyelogun and eight other members to pass the amended budget which they said had a number of questionable clauses which needed to be scrutinised.
In a statement signed by the majority leader of the house, Araoyinbo Olugbenga, the group warned that the minority and sacked leaders do not have the powers to pass financial appropriation of the state.
“It has come to our attention that the impeached speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly will be passing what is unconstitutionally known as a Re-Ordered Budget today,” Mr Olugbenga said.
“We wish to state that the request for the passage of this bill is one of the major reasons why we chose to remove and suspend the former leadership of the House on Friday, 9th November, 2018.
“Rt Hon Oleyeloogun had informed us that the Governor was desirous of passing the bill into law as quickly as possible under a procedure unknown to our Standing Rules, indeed, unknown to any known Law of our State or Nigeria.
“By this bill, the government seeks to cover the many shady and un-appropriated approvals and spending which are in excess of what is authorized by the Budget.
“In the instant case, there are so many cases of moving funds from one head of expenditure to fund another head to the detriment of the expectations of our dear people of Ondo State and there are so many cases of unjustified spendings particularly under some ministries that are under the purview of persons who are dear to the heart of the governor.
“There are many curious and inexplicable expenditures particularly under the Government House and Protocols while important heads of expenditure specifically designed to ameliorate one hardship or the other for our people would have their allotted funds moved into heads that are only important to Mr Governor and his hangers- on.
“Oleyelogun acting in cahoots with the Governor and some other House leaders insisted that we could not ask for the Year’s Budget Performance and could definitely not hold a Public Hearing even to enquire from affected ministries why they chose to either overspend beyond what is in the Budget or asked the Finance Commissioner why they condoned so much illegality by allowing virements ab initio.
“We were informed that the Governor would rather simply give us some hush money while they would employ what they called “Oku Oru” system by which they would just generate some papers to appear as if the bill had gone through a normal process. We refused and demanded that the right thing must be done.
“We have been made to know that the Governor has compelled the Staff of the House of Assembly in spite of the present danger his action of calling thugs into the House has placed their lives in to sit with the impeached speaker and his fellow companions (who do not form a quorum) on the Highway to Infamy and pass this illegal contraption of a bill into Law.
“We want the general public to know that a bill of such importance was moved from the First to the Second Readings and committed to the Committee in one single sitting on Monday and is ready to be passed into Law only three days later! How thorough could they have been?
“We wish to state that as unacceptable as this is, it is still a tad better than the earlier proposed “Oku Oru” system developed and perfected by the Leadership of Oleyeloogun whereby bills are passed, resolutions are given clandestinely for the use of Mr Governor.
“Please note that our law provides that financial bills shall be passed by only two thirds majority of members of the House. Any financial bill that does not enjoy this consent must of necessity be null and void.
“Let the whole world know and indeed every investor who brings their money into this cesspool being manned and supervised by the Governor of Ondo State, Gov Oluwarotimi Akeredolu know that they do so at their own risk.”
Despite the alarm raised by Mr Olugbenga and his group of lawmakers, the Oleyelogun faction did not only pass the amended budget, but went ahead to dissolve all standing committees of the house.
With Mr Oleyelogun presiding as the speaker at plenary on Thursday, a report on the budget was presented by the chairman of the committee on finance, Sunday Olajide, which was considered and accepted, leading to the passage of the budget.
Submitting the committee’s report, the chairman, Sunday Olajide, explained that members of the committee did a thorough job and invited concerned MDAs for proper scrutiny.
The committee further recommended that the state government should ensure that the provisions of the re-ordered funds were conscientiously applied to the needs stated therein so that the good intention behind the dispensation would be fully attained.
The lawmakers after debating on the report of the amended version of the 2018 appropriation law unanimously passed it.
Mr Oleyelogun, in his remarks, said it was necessary to pass the amended appropriation bill to enable the state governor meet his financial obligations to the workers in the state, especially the payment of Paris Club refund which was not initially appropriated for in the 2018 budget.
He also praised the governor for his unwavering commitment to the welfare of the state workforce, noting that what the Assembly was doing is in accordance with the dictates of the law.
Besides dissolving the standing committees, Mr Oleyelogun and the eight lawmakers appointed Jamiu Maito as the new majority leader of the house, while Abayomi Akinruntan as deputy majority leader and Kaseem Suleiman as parliamentary secretary.
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