December 31, 2008

Ekiti lawmakers in free-for-all

A free-for-all broke out in the Ekiti State House of Assembly on Tuesday as some lawmakers moved to forestall the presentation of the state’s 2009 budget by Governor Segun Oni.
Show of shame: Ekiti Lawmakers in a tussle for the state Assembly’s mace... on Tuesday.

Trouble started when the budget was called for discussion and the Action Congress Leader in the Assembly, Mr. Funminiyi Afuye, objected, saying that Section 41 of the Assembly’s Standing Order must be adhered to.

The Section reads, “Any message from the governor shall be read on the floor of the House and the debate on such letter shall be slated for a future date.”

Oni sent the letter to the Assembly on December 24, notifying the lawmakers of his intention to present the budget on Tuesday. But due to the Christmas break, the letter was read by the Speaker, Mr. Tunji Odeyemi, the same day.

Odeyemi, however, overruled Afuye, quoting Order 65, which empowers him to take decisions whenever the Assembly ran into a hitch on any issue.

Before the Speaker asked the Leader of Government Business in the Assembly, Mr. Lai Oke, to usher the governor to the hallowed chambers, some AC lawmakers attempted to seize the mace, the Assembly’s symbol of authority, in order to prevent the presentation of the budget.

The action resulted in a fracas with a non-member of the Assembly, Mr. Bola Olu-Ojo, reportedly throwing caution to the winds by exchanging blows with some of the AC lawmakers. Olu-Ojo is the Peoples Democratic Party chairman in the state.

The PDP lawmakers and loyalists also joined in the shouting match, shoving and fisticuffs.

Our correspondent gathered that the AC lawmakers did not want the budget to be presented to show their displeasure with the Oni-led administration for going ahead to conduct the November 20 council poll in spite of their party’s protest against the perceived improper constitution of the state’s Independent Electoral Commission.

The leadership of the AC had asked the Ekiti High Court in Ado-Ekiti to stop the poll, but the judgment is yet to be delivered, owing to the ongoing judiciary workers‘ strike.

When Oni’s security aides eventually escorted him into the Assembly, some of the lawmakers still gathered around the mace.

The governor was apparently forced to spend less than 10 minutes presenting the 66-page appropriation bill, tagged “Budget of Consolidation.

Oni told journalists after presenting the budget that the lawmakers conducted themselves in the most dishonourable manner.

He said, “They have conducted themselves in the most dishonourable manner and these lawmakers would be known to their people.

“I want to make it very clear that this state belongs to all of us and nobody has a monopoly of anything.

“Let me say to the AC lawmakers that we have presented the budget putting the constitution in mind.

“Let me explain to you that the AC people are frustrated because they did not participate in the local government election but that should not be a licence for a dishonourable behaviour. It is a disgrace.

“The people should see the state beyond the frustration of a clique of people.

“We have presented the Budget of Consolidation. Anybody that is frustrated because of his political failure must know that the state is bigger than anybody.”

The AC leader in the House, Mr. Afuye, said as far as his colleagues were concern Oni had not presented the state’s budget.

He said, “The governor has not presented the 2009 budget to the House. He only came to be cheered by his supporters and PDP leaders. For Mr. Oni to have gone ahead to present the budget at such a rowdy session shows that he has lost self respect and self esteem. It is a continuation of Oni’s administration illegalities.”

The state government intends to spend N24.7bn on recurrent matters and N41bn on capital projects in 2009.

The budget will be financed through statutory allocation of N17.2bn, Value Added Tax of N5bn, internally generated revenue of N10.4bn, internal loan totalling N15bn and Ecological Fund remitance of N2bn.

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