20th September, 2010
Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, is known as one whoÂ could hardly hide his emotions. On several occasions, he has hit hard on Nigerians,Â including the highly placed.
His emotional challenges were once again brought to the fore when he nailed the Eko oniÂ baje slogan that has become part of Lagos and its political community.
The Speaker, after reacting fiercely to a letter sent by the Executive arm of the StateÂ Government to the House seeking clarity and understanding over the latterâ€™s rejection ofÂ the N46 billion supplementary budget sent to it. Before taking his seat, he said theÂ normal: Eko o ni baje ooo, but immediately the other members responded with obaje ti,Â Ikuforiji flared up.
â€œIt is like this idea of obaje ti is too arrogant and that is what is causing all theÂ friction that we have now. I have never and will never support the idea. It is arrogant,Â it is sheer arrogance.
â€œEko oni baje, we should be praying to God ko ma baje, but instead we continue to sayÂ obaje ti as if it is in our power. This is a big trouble,â€ he concluded.
The letter dated 2 September, 2010 had caused the House to summon the State CommissionerÂ for Economic Planning and Budget, Ben Akabueze, to appear before it and explain greyÂ areas in the supplementary budget.
The letter written by Governor Babatunde Fashola to the Speaker, titled â€œRe: 2010Â supplementary budgetâ€ was read by the Deputy Clerk of the House, Sola Ogayemi.
According to Fashola in the letter, â€œI acknowledge the receipt of, and refer to, yourÂ letter of August 30, 2010 on the above subject, whereby you communicated Lagos StateÂ House of Assemblyâ€™s wholesale return of the 2010 supplementary budget proposals.
â€œYour letter attributed to â€˜anomalies noted in financial requirements of the stateÂ particularly on sources of fundâ€™ but omitted to provide any specifics to enable us toÂ address them.
â€œNevertheless, I wish to call your attention to the continuing growth in the stateâ€™sÂ population which has also created an ever increasing demand for public goods andÂ services.
â€œThis has meant that the size of the stateâ€™s budget has grown substantially over time,Â although we have deliberately tried to manage the rate of growth in the recent past.
â€œUnfortunately, the growth in government revenues has not matched the growth in demandÂ for public goods and services.
â€œThis in turn has caused the State Government to operate deficit budget since 2001. TheÂ difference between estimated revenue and expenditures in each budget cycle hasÂ traditionally been funded by borrowingsâ€.
The governor said the supplementary budget was in line with what is happening in otherÂ states of the federation and even in other countries of the world.
â€œI have directed the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget and his colleagues toÂ make themselves available to address the anomalies you referred to in your letter if youÂ will kindly direct that details be made available to him.
â€œThey also have directive to provide the clear justifications for the carefullyÂ considered revenues/expenditures included in the supplementary budget. In the meantime,Â in accordance with the tenor of your letter, I am constrained to re-present theÂ supplementary budget and to make the strongest appeal for your expeditious considerationÂ of the proposals. I do so with every sense of responsibility to avert any disruption inÂ the activities of government.
â€œThis is because the existing provisions for critical items like allowances for securityÂ personnel; road maintenance/rehabilitation; governorâ€™s office; medical treatment forÂ Government officials/citizens; general utilities/maintenance and staffÂ salaries/allowances have been severely depleted as a result of the original reductionÂ made by the House to the tune of N40bn when the main budget was presented and considered.
â€œSpecifically, with respect to staff salaries/allowances, you will recall also that theÂ LSHA had reduced the Personnel Cost Budget by N10bn without taking cognizance of ongoingÂ negotiations regarding implementation of a 15% furniture allowance for civil servants andÂ a 27.5% salary increase for teachers.
â€œThe consequence of this is that if the request for supplementation is not granted,Â government will not be in a position to pay its employees later in the year,â€ the letterÂ read.
The lawmakers were, however, not happy with the tone of the letter which, they claimed,Â seemed to have heaped the blame for the stateâ€™s recent predicaments on them.
They further accused the governor of trying to blackmail them into signing theÂ supplementary budget without investigating the formerâ€™s spendingÂ and that the HouseÂ returned the budget because it saw no need in approving it when the governor had enoughÂ money to play with.
Ikuforiji, while reacting, said: â€œI am not unaware that the state has been inundated withÂ misinformation emanating from the other side trying to blackmail the House into doingÂ what the House should not ordinarily do; trying to instigate our constituents against us,Â but we shall at all times stand by the truth and when every Lagosian gets to know theÂ truth, the truth shall set them free.
â€œNobody is fighting our governor. We brought him out when nobody knew him, we promised atÂ inception to support him and weâ€™ll continue to do that, but we wonâ€™t do it at theÂ detriment of Lagosians.
â€œThe governor is surrounded by people who consider themselves smarter (than members ofÂ the House?), but tell everyone around the state that we here will not spend the stateÂ fund on nothing, weâ€™ll do the business that we have been elected to do and weâ€™ll ensureÂ that the funds of the public is not wasted.