How lean purse is affecting governance —Lagos Chief Whip
The Chief Whip, Lagos State House of Assembly, Honourable Rotimi Abiru, believes the current state administration is making progress despite some core challenges it met on ground. BOLA BADMNUS brings the excerpts of the interview.
How will you appraise the activities of the Lagos State Assembly in the outgone year?
It’s been quite interesting. You would recall that 2019 is a transition year whereby the tenure of the erstwhile governor of the state ended in May 2019 and a new governor came into office in June and barely six weeks he has been in office, the very major assignment he undertook was to send the list of his commissioner-nominees to the state House of Assembly for confirmation which we did. We confirmed but three of nominees sent by the governor and three others were presented to us. I think the 41 cabinet members that we have, which include the governor and his deputy have hit the ground running.
Again in 2019, I can confirm that the rain was enormous which also posed a great challenge to us as a state in terms of road infrastructure and of course, there was nothing much that could be done during the rainy season. But the rain has since subsided and you can see that most of the roads are being worked on thereby relieving Lagosians of the agony of having to spend long hours on the roads.
Yes, particularly around Christmas period, there were quite a number of activities in the state, Lagos being a state as it is; we had quite a number of church programmes; we had quite a number of concerts in the entertainment industry and of course for some of the construction works ongoing. We still had to spend an ample time in traffic but not for the initial reason of the poor state of the roads but for some other activities that are synonymous with the period of the year. As a house, we have indeed done a bit this part of the year, and so far, we have considered and passed the Appropriation Law of the state. For the ninth Assembly, we’ve passed a number of resolutions that have helped to shape the lives of Lagosians. Again for a new government, I am sure you anticipate some challenges.
What are these challenges?
The challenge majorly is settling down in office. The governor and his team want to understand themselves and of course, the challenge of the lean purse became obvious with the new government.
The lean purse you are talking about, why is it so because Lagos is a thriving state, with huge internally generated revenue, so one begins to wonder why the problem of lean purse lingers.
Well, I am sure the commissioner for finance will be in a better stead to really explain what the issues are but as for me, I think the outgone government committed some of the unearned resources of the state because there are a number of ongoing projects whose payments have been linked to an ISPO, which simply deducts as money comes in. But like I said, the commissioner for finance will be in a better stead to explain that and the government has since charted its own way and things are taking shape. The weather is quite favourable and we are beginning to see the effect of the new government and we can look for better years ahead.
The 2020 budget proposal has been processed and passed into law by the state House of Assembly. What do you envisage it to achieve for Lagosians?
The budget, as its name suggests, is Budget of Awakening and it is a clear budget. It is a budget that will support the THEME Agenda which is the main focus of this present government. The intention of the Assembly is to ensure it assists the executive in hitting the ground running as soon as feasible.
To what extent have you been able to fulfil your pre-election promises to the people of your constituency?
The first thing is to continue to represent them adequately in the Assembly; for me to continue to be their mouthpiece; for me to continue to be their lobbyist as regards government’s programmes and policies. Now, there are some extra-curricular activities that we partake in, which are also a way of feeling the pulse of our people and trying to make them happy from time to time. These we do; these we shall continue to do, and we also hope and pray that things get better in Nigeria. No doubt, we are a state with so many issues but we cannot but continue to have hope in Nigeria.Mr President, as it were, is also trying to do his best to ensure probity, accountability and transparency in government and in some areas, corruption is trying to fight back in the system. And that poses a big challenge to those directing the affairs of the state and the country. However, we must keep hope alive, feel strong and do what is expected of us as good citizens of Nigeria.
The governor recently at Ifako-Ijaiye, commissioned about 31 road projects. Should your constituents expect something similar in Bariga?
We have some ongoing projects in Bariga as a matter of fact. There are 11 roads that were awarded together to support the Urban Regeneration Plan of the state and the people of Bariga. The roads were awarded together and as we speak, work is ongoing on the roads. Aside, there is a major alternate road that the government is also trying to finish, and that is Odunsi Road, which leads out to expressway via Alhaji Ariyo. That would through Jagunmolu Road, and I think it’s a major one. But of course, last year’s rains were quite much and before the new government came they needed to reevaluate, to rekindle assess but I can categorically say that we also have a cluster of roads, I think they are about 11 as ongoing in Bariga. I can say for a fact that we also have ongoing projects that we hope would be completed before the end of 2020.
I will like you to comment on the crisis rocking the Edo APC chapter of the party and your expectation from the executive arm of government in Lagos State in 2020?
First on Lagos State, the Assembly enjoys a cordial working relationship with the executive. In as much as each arm of government is independent, there is also the need for interdependence. When it comes to putting the interest of the people of Lagos first, we enjoy mutual respect from each other. You know that part of what creates issue is if the executive is not adhering to the rules, the laws as it were and I think we enjoy a harmonious working relationship and I believe it is the people of Lagos that will benefit majorly from the relationship that exists. As regards the crisis in Edo APC, what we are experiencing is most unfortunate and I hope and pray that the matter will be resolved very soon. There has been quite a number of interventions from well-meaning Nigerians. The National Assembly has set up a committee to look into the crisis with a view of resolving it. Some other concerned Nigerians too are also looking at what is best way out of the circumstances that we have found ourselves.