The Lagos State House of Assembly on Tuesday, 11 April, 2023, ordered the withdrawal of letters given to government appointees whose nominations should have been sent to the House for their screening and confirmation, but who took up the jobs without the due process.
The House also ordered immediate halting of salaries and remunerations enjoyed by the affected government appointees pending their appearances before the House. The Assembly further summoned three top officials over the issue.
Those summoned are: the state Head of Service, Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola; the Accountant-General of the State, Dr. Abiodun Muritala; and the state Commissioner for Establishment, Mrs. Ajibola Ponnle.
In a ‘Matter of Urgent Public Importance’ brought before the House by Hon. Noheem Adams, Deputy Majority Leader, the lawmakers lamented the increasing situation where supposed nominees of the governor continue to work without being screened and confirmed by the House
Speaker Mudashiru Obasa, who presided at the sitting, agreed with the lawmakers that appointments of that nature without recourse to the House amounted to infractions.
“I quite agree with all of you that the failure of such nominees to appear is an infraction or violation of the laws of this House, especially as it relates to the MDAs, most of which were established by the laws of this House,” Dr. Obasa said adding that the laws of the House of Assembly have statutory provisions that nominees of the governor must appear for confirmation.
“It is becoming common and regular and if we fail to act now, it becomes a norm. I share your sentiments that there is a need for us to put a stop to this. I am aware of the development in the Audit Commission, I am aware of the one in the Law Reform Commission and now the Auditor-General and some others,” he said.
Raising the issue earlier, Hon. Adams cited Section 196, subsection 2; Section 198 and Section 126, subsection 3 which give backing to the House of Assembly in respect of nominations by the governor for appointments.
“Section 126, subsection 3 provides that except with the resolution of a State Assembly, no person shall act in the office of the Auditor-General for a state for a period exceeding six months.
“As the chairman, House committee on legislative compliance, I have observed that some appointments to boards and other agencies were not brought to this noble House. If this persists, the principle of separation of powers will be in jeopardy.
“For example, the Auditor-General was appointed on the September 22, 2022 and today is April 11, 2023,” Adams said adding that the Auditor-General’s appointment in acting capacity had exceeded what the laws stipulate.
Supporting Adams, Hon. Ademola Kasunmu said the stipulations of Section 198 should be strictly adhered to. He added that because such appointments are considered null and void, every remuneration that had gone out, should be returned to the coffers of the State.
Speaking on the same matter, Hon. Victor Akande observed that the situation happened in the judiciary where an appointment was done without recourse to the House and the due process.
Hon. Sa’ad Olumoh lamented that such appointments without regard for the House were becoming too many.
“Separation of power is a doctrine enshrined in the constitution. The executive has the right to nominate people and the House has the responsibility to either confirm or reject such nominations.
“It is not only in the office of the Auditor-General, but I don’t know in what capacity one can act beyond the time limit without recourse to the House,” he said while urging the House to look at the issue holistically so as to put an end to what could cause issues later.
Hon. Rotimi Olowo, who noted the difference between nomination and appointment, lamented: “Today, we have a lot of people parading themselves with many names without appearing before this House for clearance. It should not be a padi-padi thing. This is a constitutional matter and if we do not adhere, we would end up facing the wrought of the people.”
He said it was an infraction to have people who are not cleared by the House receiving salaries and “I am of the opinion that such money is supposed to be returned to the coffers.”
Hon. Desmond Elliot called on the House to act in a way to curtail any future occurrence while Hon. Femi Saheed suggested that “in line with the constitution, anyone acting outside the stipulated time must recourse to the House.”
He further suggested that the Head of Service be made to appear before the House to clear himself over the issue.