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Suspended lawmakers ask court to stop Akeredolu’s 2021 budget

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The crisis rocking the Ondo State House of Assembly took a new dimension on Friday as suspended lawmakers asked the state high court to stop the assembly from passing the budget for the 2021 fiscal year.

The lawmakers, who filed the suit on Friday, are Irolu Ogundeji, deputy speaker, representing Odigbo 1 Constituency; Tomide Akinribido, representing Ondo West 1 constituency; Favour Tomomewo, representing Ilaje II constituency and Adewale Adewinle, representing Ondo West II constituency.

Those sued include the governor of the state, Rotimi Akeredolu; the speaker of the assembly, Bamidele Oleyelogun; commissioner of justice, Charles Titiloye; commissioner of budget and finance, Emmanuel Igbasan; commissioner of finance, Adewale Akinterinwa; Accountant General, Olaolu Akindolie; chairman, House Committee on Budget, Sunday Olajide and the entire members of the assembly.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State [PHOTO CREDIT: official Facebook page of Rotimi Akeredolu]
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State [PHOTO CREDIT: official Facebook page of Rotimi Akeredolu]

The lawmakers, according to the originating summon seen by PREMIUM TIMES, want the court to determine whether it is not unconstitutional and unlawful for the defendants to take steps, and/or contemplate, or evince the intention to pass the 2021 appropriation bill with the exclusion of democratically elected members representing Odigbo 1, Ondo West 1, Ondo West 2 and Ilaje 2 Constituencies in defiance of their statutory responsibility as prescribed under the provisions of constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended) and Rules and standing Orders of the Ondo State House of Assembly.

They also asked whether “given the provisions of S.4(7), S.100(1) and S. 121 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended) and the extant Rules and Standing Orders of the Ondo State House of Assembly, it is not wrongful, illegal, unconstitutional and a flagrant abuse of power for the Defendants herein precluding and/or excluding the democratically elected members representing Odigbo 1, Ondo West 1, Ondo West 2 and Ilaje 2 constituencies from carrying out their statutory and legislative duties as it relates to the passage of 2021 appropriation Bill.”

“Whether given the provision of Order 12 Rule 80(4) of the Rules and standing Orders of the Ondo State House of Assembly, the claimants are not entitled to be availed each printed copy of the appropriation bill WHEREOF the claimants claim against the Defendants the following reliefs:

“A Declaration that the claimants having been democratically elected are entitled to serve and represent their constituents in the Ondo State House of Assembly. A Declaration that the continued exclusion of the democratically elected members of the Ondo State House of Assembly representing Odigbo 1, Ondo West 1, Ondo West 2 and Ilaje 2 constituencies from the passage of the 2021 Appropriation Bill is illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and flagrant violation of the relevant provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended).”

“A Declaration that it is a constitutional right and legislative responsibility of the democratically elected members of the Ondo State House of Assembly to participate in the passage of the 2021 Appropriation Bill among others for the entire constituencies in Ondo State. A Declaration that the democratically elected members of the Ondo State House of Assembly representing Odigbo 1, Ondo West 1, Ondo West 2 and Ilaje 2 constituencies respectively are entitled to participate in the passage of 2021 Appropriation Bill being part of their constitutional legislative responsibilities as this torches on economic life of their constituent for the whole year.

“A Declaration that the democratically elected members representing Odigbo 1, Ondo West 1, Ondo West 2 and Ilaje 2 Constituencies are subsisting members of the Ondo State House of Assembly by virtue of the Order of the Court of Competent record reinstating them from an unconstitutional suspension. A Declaration that any attempt to pass the 2021 Appropriation Bill with the exclusion of democratically elected members representing Odigbo 1, Ondo West 1, Ondo West 2 and Ilaje 2 constituencies will deprive the constituents being represented by the aforementioned elected members the opportunity to have input in the appropriation Bill that will affect their economy life for the whole year.”

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“A Declaration that the defendants either by themselves or by their agents, assigns, privies, officers, officials and/or any other person howsoever called or described acting for, at the instance of, or in the position of the Defendants lack the powers to pass the 2021 Appropriation Bill into law with the willful exclusion of the democratically elected members of the Ondo State House of Assembly representing Odigbo 1, Ondo West 1, Ondo West 2 and Ilaje 2 constituencies. A Declaration that it is not lawful, not constitutional but ultra vires and amounts to a null and void for the Defendants to prevent, disallow or however do any act that is capable of preventing or disentitling the claimants from performing any of the functions, duties and/or exercise of the powers given to the claimants in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) and Rules and standing Orders of the Ondo State House of Assembly.”

The lawmakers are asking the court to issue an order directing and compelling the defendants to allow the claimants to adequately participate in the passage of appropriation bill 2021 into law being elected and legal members of the Ondo State House of Assembly

“AN ORDER nullifying and/or set aside all processes taken by the defendants in the process of passing into Law the appropriation bill 2021 without the involvement of the claimants. AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants either by themselves or by their Agents, assigns, privies, officers, officials and/or any other person howsoever called or described acting for, at the instance of, or in the position of the Defendants from passing the 2021 Appropriation Bill into law pending the involvement of the democratically elected members representing Odigbo 1, Ondo West 1, Ondo West 2 and Ilaje 2 constituencies.”

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“AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants either by themselves or by their Agents, assigns, privies, officers, officials and/or other person howsoever called or described acting for, at the instance of, or in the position of the Defendants from disturbing, interfering with, preventing or disentitling the claimants from performing any of the functions, duties, rights and/or exercise of the powers given to them by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) and the extant Rules and Standing Orders of the Ondo State House of Assembly which includes but not limited to passage of 2021 Appropriation Bill into law.”

The matter is expected to come up on Monday, December 14 before Justice D. I. Kolawole.

The assembly crisis

There has been crisis in the assembly long before the October 10 governorship election in the state following the suspension of four lawmakers who rejected the impeachment plans of the deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, who left APC for ZLP.

Ondo Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi (PHOTO CREDIT: Twitter)
Ondo Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi (PHOTO CREDIT: Twitter)

The court, however, upturned their suspension but the assembly refused to reinstate them. Rather than obey court order, the assembly on November 24 voted to impeach its deputy speaker, Mr Ogundeji.

The House led by its Speaker, Mr Oleyelogun, accused Mr Ogundeji of “gross misconduct” citing it as the ground for the impeachment. The lawmakers held that by his conduct he had brought disrepute to the assembly.

It also claimed that 20 lawmakers signed the impeachment proceedings and that it required 18 to form two-thirds of the house.

But on November 25, nine members of the house wrote a letter, accusing the speaker of Illegalities. The lawmakers, in a letter addressed to the speaker, described the impeachment exercise, which he presided over as a “charade” and null and void, because it was in breach of the 1999 Constitution(as amended) and the Rules and Standing Orders of the Ondo State House of Assembly.

The nine lawmakers were also united against the impeachment of the deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, for which four of them were suspended by the House.

They also pledged their allegiance to Mr Ogundeji as the deputy speaker, in view of the fact that his removal was ‘unconstitutional.’

Budget

Mr Akeredolu on November 27 presented a budget of N159 billion to the state House of Assembly for the 2021 fiscal year.

It was presented before the assembly by the Commissioner for Budget and Economic planning, Mr Igbasan, on behalf of Mr Akeredolu.

The budget was about N8 billion higher than 2020 fiscal year. A total sum of N103 billion was budgeted for recurrent expenditure, N56 billion for capital expenditure, over N13 billion was put for debt services and N12 billion for statutory transfer.

He said the budget was meant to rekindle people’s hope in the face of very serious social, economic and difficult challenges, triggered by the COVID-19.






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