Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, has come under criticism from the opposition over the distribution of 2020 model SUV KIA Sportage to members of the state House of Assembly as official vehicles.
The governor had earmarked about N1.18billion in the 2020 budget for the procurement of vehicles for the House of Assembly.
The cars were presented to the leadership of the house on Friday, a day to the official flag off of the governorship campaign of the All Progressives Congress, with the opposition alleging that the expenditure was meant to score a political point.
Seven members of the house who frustrated the impeachment move against the deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, missed out of the car distribution.
Presenting the vehicles to the state legislators at the Government House in Akure, Mr Akeredolu said his administration had kept its promise of providing the cars despite the dwindling resources of the state.
“What matters to me is that when we make promises we keep them. It is not for political reasons. We have been on this car issue for a while and luckily, it came today just before the flag off. Nobody is doing it for political reason. This is an improvement on what we had last,” the governor explained.
Responding on behalf of his colleagues, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Bamidele Oloyelogun, thanked the governor for being a faithful servant leader.
He recalled that it was the second time Governor Akeredolu would present members of the Ondo State House of Assembly with official vehicles in three and a half years.
The first time was in December 2018, when he presented official vehicles to members of the 8th assembly who were elected during the administration of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
But the Peoples Democratic Party described the car gifts as a waste of resources.
The party’s spokesperson, Kennedy Peretei, in a statement said the governor was desperate to placate the state lawmakers.
The PDP alleged that the government procured over 50 cars for distribution ahead of the forthcoming governorship election.
“At the ceremony where legislators received these Greek gifts, Akeredolu remarked that the timing for giving them these cars has no political undertone. Why did he have to wait till now that election is around the corner to donate these cars?” the party queried.
“Last year, the Ondo State House of Assembly adjourned for more than five weeks because of a dangerous python that dropped from the ceiling of the Chambers of the Assembly during plenary session.
“The governor and the legislators traded accusations of neglect and welfare of members and the Assembly Complex that harboured reptiles. It is therefore suspicious for the governor to suddenly show care and attention for the legislators amongst whom he could not secure the constitutionally required number to impeach his estranged deputy, Mr Agboola Ajayi.
“The same is true for traditional rulers that Akeredolu had shown great disrespect since he was sworn in as Governor of Ondo State.
“The Akeredolu-led APC government has demonstrated insensitivity to the plight of the Ondo State people by this gesture.
“Just twenty four hours after President Muhammadu Buhari increased the pump price of petrol from N143 to N161 per litre and a 150% increase in Electricity consumption per Kwh, the best Akeredolu could do is to use tax payers’ money to induce the political class to curry their favour. The move is vexatious and amounts to adding salt on injury.”
Also, the deputy governor, Mr Ajayi, criticised the presentation of the vehicles to the exclusion of seven members.
He said the action of the governor was selective, as those excluded were among those who refused to sign the impeachment notice against him.
Four of the nine members were suspended by the leadership of the house, including the deputy speaker, Iroju Ogundeji, for what the house described as unparliamentary acts.
The suspended lawmakers recently secured a court order quashing their suspension by the house.
Mr Ajayi who spoke through his media aide, Allen Sowore, faulted the governor’s action.
“Presenting official vehicles to only members of the House who are loyal to the governor and leaving out those who refused to sign impeachment process of the deputy governor is the lowest political strategy,” he said.
One of the lawmakers left out of the car distribution, Tomide Akinribido, told PREMIUM TIMES that their exclusion was not a mistake but a deliberate act to penalise them for their refusal to sign the impeachment notice against the deputy governor.
He noted that two of the nine lawmakers were given the cars to give the impression that they were not being victimised.
“It is not the governor’s personal gifts, this is statutory and the governor should not play politics with it,” said Mr Akinribido.
When reached for his comments, the Commissioner for Information, Donald Ojogo, said the House of Assembly was in a better position to react to the issue.