Lawyers tackle Mimiko over 2017 budget

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Although they were unanimous that Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo state had the constitutional power to present the 2017 budget, lawyers however faulted the outgoing governor’s desperation to present the budget and some 38 bills before the state House of Assembly, 19 days to the end of his tenure.

Mimiko’s tenure ends on February 23 as the Ondo Governorelect under the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu would be sworn in on February 24 as the state’s substantive governor following his emergence in the last year governorship election.

Mimiko, however, drew the ire of residents of the state last week as he insisted on presenting the 2017 budget and some 38 bills to the House of Assembly before February 24 handover.

This was however met with stiff opposition by the already polarized Assembly including residents of the 41 year-old state, who besieged the Assembly.

They are querying Governor Mimiko’s decision to present the budget and the bills exactly 19 days to the end of his tenure. The Assembly had been polarised into two factions, led by Malachy Coker and the sacked Speaker, Jumoke Akindele. Coker’s faction was already in control of the Assembly by taken over plenary as lawmakers in Akindele’ faction, loyal to Mimiko had boycotted the Assembly.

Last week, Mimiko and his aides attempted to enter the Assembly but were resisted by protesters, who allegedly barricaded the Igbatoro road, which leads to the Assembly.

This, however, led to fracas as protesters who had laid siege to the entrance of the Assembly were allegedly teargassed by the police, injuring tens of protesters.

The protesters believed the outgoing governor lacked powers to present the budget since his tenure in office would end on February 23. The protesters, had on February 1 stormed the Assembly complex on Igbatoro Road carrying placards with various inscriptions such as “ICPC and EFCC come to Ondo State’’, “Mimiko Don Carry our Money Go’’, “We Are not Slaves in Ondo’’, “Iroko Don’t Fool us’’ and “Ondo Youths Say no to Slavery.’’

Mr Adelokiki Orimisan, who claimed to be representing Coalition of Ondo State People, comprising different groups, had accused Mimiko of a plan to create a state of anarchy. Orimisan said: “Yesterday (February 1), we had information that Mimiko is coming for presentation of 2017 budget and influence passage of 38 controversial bills which we are here to complain against.

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“This is a total impunity which Ondo State youths will not tolerate because it is an effrontery on the constitution of the state considering that his act may cause a breach of peace in the state.

“Mimiko is influencing the House to pass a bill of Life Pension for himself and the Act of Public Procurement which he did not present in the last eight years.

“He should have concentrated on smooth transition to the incoming Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.” But lawyers at the weekend cautioned the protesters from obstructing due process as Mimiko remains the governor until his tenure ends, they blamed Mimiko for the planned budget presentation though.

They said although he had the legitimate right to present the budget, such step is morally inexpedient to so do especially since he had less than three weeks to stay in office as governor of the Sunshine state.

Five Senior Advocates of Nigeria—Chiefs Ifedayo Adedipe, Adeniyi Akintola, Dr. Abiodun Layonu, a former Lagos Solicitor- General, Mr. Lawal Pedro and Seyi Sowemimo believe that Governor Mimiko’s power to present the budget was sacrosanct but such presentation at the twilight of his tenure was morally inexpedient in view of its long-term attendant problems as his tenure ends February 23.

Besides, they said the last week’s attendant protest arising from Mimiko’s planned presentation of the budget and the bills was unnecessary as just it was lawful for the governor to present the budget, so the Assembly had powers to overturn the budget notwithstanding the polarization of the House.

For instance, Adedipe said that although the governor had the legal backings to present the contentious budget to the State House of Assembly as a sitting governor, the House also had powers to either accept or reject it. Adedipe said: “The propriety is not the same thing as the legality.

The question is: does he has the legal right? If the answer is yes, then, it is up to the House of Assembly concerned to either consider or reject the budget as the case may be.

“Remember every budgetary provision is at best a proposal and is subject to the approval of the House of Assembly “So, if the House of Assembly, which in ordinary parlance is a representative of the people, although, in reality they are representing their pockets, is willing to pass the budget, so be it. “Legally, there is nothing stopping him.

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But, on the moral side, it may be that he wants the budget passed in order to do one or two things. But, if you ask me, whoever the governor is, he ought to exercise patience if his successor has just two or three weeks to come in.

After all, under the Constitution, without the budget in place, he can still spend up to 50 per cent of the previous year budget.” Layonu, who also spoke in similar vein, said that the law allowed the governor to present the budget as long as he had complied with the laid down procedure. He said: “You have to start from strict technicality of the law.

He is the governor and until his last day in office, he has all the powers and everything that the law gives him. So, to that extent and as long as he complies with the procedure or requisite for presenting a budget, the mere fact that he has less than two weeks to go does not mean he cannot present a budget.

What the House of Assembly will do on the budget is now left to them. “It’s both a legal and political thing. On the legal side, it is going to be very difficult to fault the governor.

“The content of the budget must also be looked into. Although I will be surprised why a governor will want to present budget when he has less than two weeks to spend in office, but, it may be that he wants to ratify money that he had already spent that was not budgeted for and he now wants to regularise his position.”

Pedro queried the rationale behind the governor’s action, describing Mimiko’s decision to present the budget as imposing his own idea on the incoming governor.

He said: “Ordinarily, he has no reason for taking such an action if he has less than two weeks to spend in office except if he wants to impose his own idea on the incoming governor.

That will not be fair. “Budget is a matter of estimation and anticipation. It represents what you are expecting and what you want to spend. The issue is that the incoming governor may want to prioritize on education and give it about 50 per cent of the budget. I don’t see how the outgoing governor can make budget for the incoming governor.

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It would not be proper and wise for a governor that is leaving office in less than a month to be presenting budget to the house. “Well, he can present the budget, it is left for the House of Assembly to decide what to do with it.

They can keep it somewhere until a new governor comes on board because that is the person they are going to work with. “It is undesirable for the outgoing governor to engage in such an action; it’s like turning governance into charade when it is not his father’s estate, he cannot do that. He might not have committed any criminal offence known to law by presenting the budget but it is highly undesirable and unreasonable.” Akintola was not different.

He said although there was no law against Mimiko’s decision to present the budget, it would be difficult for the House of Assembly to conclude deliberations on it before the end of the governor’s tenure. He said: “There is no law that says he can’t do so.

The House of Assembly that will receive the budget cannot be stampeded into deliberating on the budget. So, I believe the governor is just presenting the budget for presentation sake. The budget will not be considered before he leaves office.

There is no way deliberations can be concluded on the budget before the expiration of the governor’s tenure. So, we should not bother ourselves with the governor’s action.”

Sowemimo said the governor had not committed any offence by presenting the budget since he was still in charge. He said: “He has the right as the governor up till the very last day in office as the person coming in can do whatever he likes. “But, on the moral side, it may appear there is no point for the outgoing governor to present the budget.

He should have allowed the incoming governor to do the budget presentation. “However, the outgoing governor might want to do some things which he does not want his successor to overturn.

So, I think it’s quite natural for one to prevent what he has done from being overturned by another person.”

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