Former Commissioner of Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Olusegun Banjo and his Energy and Mineral Resources counterpart, Mr. Olawale Oluwo in the administration of former Lagos Governor Akinwunmi Ambode have denied reports that they indicted Ambode before an ad-hoc committee of the State House of Assembly.
The commissioners debunked the reports in separate statements, noting that the reports were a deliberate misrepresentation of what transpired during the proceedings of the investigative committee probing the Ambode administration.
The Speaker of the assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, had constituted a nine-man ad-hoc committee under the chairmanship of Hon. Fatai Mojeed (Ibeju-Lekki I) to probe the procurement of 820 high occupancy vehicles, which the Ambode administration had purchased under its Bus Reform Initiative (BRI).
Speaker Obasa claimed that the Ambode administration did not seek the approval of the House for the procurement of the vehicles and directed the committee to summon Banjo and other top functionaries who were involved to state their roles in the purchase.
At the proceedings, reports had claimed that Banjo indicted the former governor and that Ambode sidelined his ministry in the controversial purchase of 820 mass transit buses and that the way the ministry was structured under Ambode did not allow him (Banjo) to function properly.
In his statement, however, Banjo denied the reports, noting that he did not say anything before the committee to condemn or indict the Ambode administration which he served as the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning between February 2018 and May 2019.
He explained that he appeared before the House committee on October 15 following a letter of invitation dated October 11, requesting him “to answer some questions on the purchase of 820 buses as they relate to the function of the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget headed by me during the last administration.”
During the hearing, Banjo said he told the committee that he was appointed in February 2018 when the issue of bus purchase was already being implemented.
Banjo added that the bus issue did not come up in the budget he managed.
The former commissioner said: “I am deeply saddened and disappointed by such sensationalism by sections of the press and by its uninhibited and deplorable abdication of a basic tenet of professional journalism- impartial reportage.
“I wish to state that I am not in a position to know what exactly transpired on the issue of the buses as I was not in government when the issue was tabled and approved by the State Executive Council and neither was I drafted into the bus steering committee on assumption of duty in February 2018.
“My response to questions asked by the committee under oath was intended to explain technical issues pertaining to the operations of the ministry and explain the anomalies they noted and seek explanations to, and nothing said by me there was intended to or said in any manner as to condemn or indict anyone.”
However, Banjo claimed that he told the ad-hoc committee that the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning should be reviewed, claiming that he pointed out other weaknesses of the ministry’s operating system in a professional manner.
He said: “It is pertinent to note that these observations had earlier been included in my handing over note to the new administration and as it affects all arms of government and not the executive alone. I was therefore, contrary to the impression sought to be portrayed by the press, not saying anything new that had not been said before.”
In his own statement, Oluwo acknowledged that he attended the second session of the committee proceedings on October 15 alongside former Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Toyin Suara, noting that reports in some sections of the media were not true.
According to him, "Suara and I were called into the conference room at the same time. The lawmakers asked both of us questions in the open. While Suara was asked questions about Lagos Rice Mill Project in Imota, I was asked questions about the LED-UK streetlights installation, a UK Exim bank funded project."
The former commissioner said it was strange “to read reports that Suara and Oluwo said many of the projects including Oshodi Transport Interchange and others were never captured in the state budget. This is rather strange.
“For the avoidance of doubt, I reiterate that I did not and could never have indicted former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. I am a committed democrat, a loyal team player and a strong believer in the principle of collective responsibility.”
He noted that "the reports were completely false and indeed a misrepresentation of the proceedings of the ad-hoc committee of the State House of Assembly.”