Anti-corruption groups, including Transparency International and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, have condemned the Lagos State House of Assembly for sending wives of the state lawmakers to Dubai at the cost of N80m.
The Speaker of the House, Madashiru Obasa, had told a panel of inquiry set up to probe corruption allegations levelled against him that the N80m was spent on training the wives of 20 lawmakers in Dubai with a budget of N4m each, adding that he declared the event open.
Obasa had said, “We gave N4m to each of the participants for air ticket, hotels, feeding and local travel. An air ticket to Dubai alone costs about N2m.
“The House of Assembly is above common standard of excellence and we have to train people, and this comes at a cost. Learning is not cheap and I have never collected N80m for estacode at a go before.”
But speaking to The PUNCH, Auwal Musa, aka Rafsanjani, the Head of TI in Nigeria, said it was saddening that N80m would be spent on such an event when the health and education sectors in the state were in shambles.
Rafsanjani, who is also the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, said an act could still be deemed as corrupt even if it is approved officially.
The TI head said, “If this is not corruption, what would you call this? The truth is that there is something called official stealing, looting and diversion of funds and it is happening across Nigeria and what the Lagos Assembly has done is just to tell you what is going on in other states.
“It is also a reflection of what is happening at the federal level because states usually emulate the federal. Nigeria’s democracy has been hijacked by those stealing the funds meant for development. Imagine how many communities would have clean water if that money was spent on development?
“Imagine if the money was used in equipping a primary health centre? Why spend it on legislators’ wives?”
Also speaking, the Chairman of CACOL, Debo Adeniran, said, “For me, it is not really the N80m that matters but the fact that the state is not supposed to spend a dime on the wives of lawmakers who are not even elected officials. These legislators are already receiving outrageous allowances which ought to cater for their families.
“They need to explain to us why it was important for the wives of lawmakers, women who were not elected, to be trained in Dubai.”
Similarly, the Chairman, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, Olanrewaju Suraju, said the spending could not have been included in the state’s budget.
“Lagos Assembly has 40 lawmakers out of which 37 are men. How come it is the wives of 20 that were taken for that controversial event? That money could not have been included in the budget. I don’t believe the wives even travelled but the money was just transferred to them.”
He called on anti-corruption agencies to investigate the trip.
Suraju said, “Constitutionally, it is inappropriate; these are not members of the parliament.