Lagos Assembly spent N80m to train wives of lawmakers in Dubai – Speaker

Mudashiru Obasa, Lagos Speaker

The Lagos House of Assembly spent N80 million for training of the wives of 20 members in Dubai, the Speaker Mudahiru Obasa said on Saturday.

He spoke while he appeared before the state assembly panel of enquiry set up to probe corruption allegations levelled against in series of publications by an online medium

The Speaker responded to the allegations before the nine-man Fact Finding Panel of the House, headed by Victor Akande (Ojo Constituency I), at the House chamber.

While explaining on the expenditure of N80 million as estacode for the training of women in Dubai, said that wives of the 20 lawmakers attended the event and he was there to declare it open.

He, however, did not indicate what the nature of the training the wives of the lawmakers went for in Dubai.

He said: “We gave N4 million to each of the participants for air ticket, hotels, feedings and local travel.

“Air ticket to Dubai alone is about N2 million.

“Some of these allegations were raised for a crusade to get the speaker out of office.

“The House of Assembly is above common standard of excellence and we have to train people, and this comes with a cost.

“Learning is not cheap and I have never collected N80 million for estacode at a go before.”

The Speaker also responded to the claim that he is operating at least 64 bank accounts linked to his Bank Verification Number of the speaker being used to siphon public funds.

There Speaker responded to this claim and others when he appeared before the Committee.

The Speaker explained that the vehicles bought for the members of the House and other expenses made were done with the approval of the House and that of the Fund Management Committee of the House, headed by him.

He said: “We bought land cruisers for Principal Officers of the House.

“The cars we bought for them are always higher than those of other members and we followed the due process in the purchase.

“We went through the Public Procurement Agency and others and the vehicles were distributed appropriately.

“It was agreed at the parliamentary meetings on about four occasions and the Clerk of the House, Mr. Azeez Sanni, is the Secretary.

“Also, it is not true that my wife collects N10 million monthly from the House.

“Anyone who says she does should come with proofs and evidences.

“My approval limit as the Speaker is N100 million and anything above that would have to be approved by the Fund Management Committee.”

Obasa also debunked the allegation that N258 million was spent for the printing of invitation cards for the inauguration of the 9th Assembly.

He said the whole event cost N61 million and that N1.1 million was spent on printing of the invitation cards.

“It is not possible to spend N258 million to print invitation cards. We are not involved in such a frivolous expenditure,” he said.

The speaker, while defending the purchase of eight Hiace buses for committee works in the Assembly, said it was discovered that the House was spending a lot of money to repair vehicles.

“That was why the House decided to buy the buses. The buses were there for everybody to see with documents to defend the purchases,” he said.

Obasa also denied the allegation that he spent N53 million for a trip to the United States of America with his mistress.

He said: “We were invited by the Consular General for a programme in the United States.

“Later, the programme was postponed, but I had gone ahead.

“I had to return home and I told others not to bother to come until the new dates.”

Obasa, however, told the committee that it was not possible for him to spend N17 million for cleaning of his guest house, being one of the allegations made by the online medium.

He said: “They only remove documents and fly them around to please themselves.

“All our payments go through certain procedures.

“The expenditure had been there before I became the speaker.

“There was no way I could have spent such amount on cleaning my guest house.

“On the issue of awarding contracts to companies belonging to me, they should come and show evidence of where I awarded contracts to myself.”

On the report that he tricked former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to spend N350 million for hosting a meeting of Conference of Speakers, Obasa, told the committee that this was not possible.

The speaker said such situation was not possible since Ambode was an accountant, who rose to be the Chief Accountant of the State.

He said: “There was no way I could have tricked Ambode to release such money.

“We had a meeting of the Conference of Speakers, who came with three members each, and we had sub-committees who were given N2 million each.

“We paid for the tickets of each speaker.

“We paid for their hotel accommodation, feeding and souvenirs.

“We also provided local transportation for them.

“All these allegations are deliberate actions of my enemies to achieve their aims that they could not achieve in the House to remove me as the Speaker of the House, which was why they came up with such reports.”

The speaker denied spending N60 million on social media influencers.

Obasa said he did not know the companies they were talking about.

He said: “The BVN they were flying about was not correct.

“Whatever I have done as a Speaker, all the approvals I gave as Speaker were given based on collective approval of the members of the House.”

The Deputy Speaker of the House, Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, who also appeared before the panel, denied attending a meeting in Dubai as against the report of the online medium.

Also speaking, Chairman of the House Committee on Information and Strategy, Tunde Braimoh, said he didn’t know how much was spent on the hosting of the Conference of Speakers since different people handled different aspects of the event.

Braimoh said: “We provided hospitality for the few the people that came.

“The event involved other things.

“There were catering and others that were given to other people to handle.

“It is most uncharitable to say we spent N47.5 million for social media influencers.

“We spend money on publicity and public relations.

“We have programmes that we pay for: on TVC and LTV 8.

“We have a magazine that we produce and we print 40,000 copies quarterly and distribute to schools and other places and we pay for the content, design and production.”

Sanni also defended the estacode for the trip to the United States, saying it followed the standard procedure.

Sanni said the programme was budgeted for under conferences and seminars.

The Clerk, however, agreed that some documents might have been released to the online medium through some disgruntled staffers of the House.

He said: “We have been taking steps on that and we have transferred some members of staff.

“The files go through many tables and there is no doubt that some devilish staffers take pictures of some of these documents and send to these people.

“The staff have taken oaths and this attracts dismissal.

“Unofficial disclosure of information attracts dismissal in the civil service.”

Officials of Zenith Bank Plc: John Olorundare, Zonal Head of Alausa; and Sanni Idowu Awe, also appeared before the panel.

The bank officials stated that an individual could only have one Bank Verification Number.

They confirmed that different account names could not be used for one BVN and that Obasa had only six accounts with Zenith Bank.

According to them, only two of the accounts are operational: one savings and current, while the rest are dormant.

Present at the meeting were other members of the committee, including Yinka Ogundimu (Agege II), Gbolahan Yishawu (Eti Osa II), Lukmon Olumoh (Ajeromi Ifelodun I) and Ajani Owolabi (Lagos Mainland I).

Others are Mojisola Alli-Macaulay (Amuwo Odofin I), Rotimi Olowo (Shomolu I) and Akeem Shokunle (Oshodi/Isolo I).