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820 buses: We didn’t indict Ambode, media reports false, misleading, says ex-Commissioners

Former Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources under the immediate past administration in Lagos State, Mr. Wale Oluwo and his counterpart in Budget and Economic Planning, Olusegun Banjo have faulted reports published in the traditional and online media on the ongoing probe of 820 buses by the House of Assembly alleging that they both indicted former Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.

Oluwo, in a letter addressed to the Managing Director of Independent Communications Network Limited, publishers of PM News, said the report with the headline ‘Ambode Shuns Lagos Assembly Again, Ex Aides Indict Him’, included a paragraph that was not only false but a complete misrepresentation of the proceedings.

According to him, a phrase in the report had read that he and the former commissioner for Agriculture, Toyin Suarau had said that many of the projects including the Oshodi Transport Interchange and others were never captured in the state budget.

He noted that of all the reports on other news media on the same event he observed, only PM News had the offensive reportage.

“That report is completely false and indeed a misrepresentation of the proceedings.

“For the records, I wish I state the facts as follows: I attended the second session of the Committee proceedings on October 15, 2019, and cannot remember seeing a reporter of PM News inside the Committee room.

“The ex-commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Toyin Suarau and I were called into the Committee room at the same time. So the questions asked both of us were in the open.

“Suarau was asked questions on the Lagos State Rice Mill project in Imota while I was asked questions on the LED-UK street lights installations (a UK Exim Bank funded project).

“I answered the committee’s questions to the best of the information available to me and at no time was any of us asked questions on Oshodi interchange or any other projects outside the two mentioned above.

“It is therefore very disturbing how a reporter of PM News, purportedly designated to cover the State House of Assembly Committee proceedings, came about the report that ‘Suarau and Oluwo said many of the projects including the Oshodi interchange and others were never captured in the state budget’….this is strange,” Oluwo said.

He charged the management of PM News to investigate the misconduct and correct the same, saying that “by so doing, they would have succeeded in convincing the general public that it is unbiased and capable of staying above the fray in this high-wire political events unfolding in Lagos State”.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I reiterate that I did not and could never have indicted former governor Akinwunmi Ambode.  I am a committed democrat, a loyal team player and a strong believer in the principle of collective responsibility,” Oluwo said.

In the same vein, Banjo, also in a press statement, expressed strong reservations on media report on his appearance before the committee in the traditional and online media of Wednesday, October 16 with the caption “820 buses: Ex-commissioner indicts Ambode” was a selective and partial reportage of what transpired.

He said he was “deeply saddened and disappointed by such sensationalism by hitherto section of the press and by its uninhibited and deplorable abdication of a basic tenet of professional journalism- impartial reportage.

“To my utter chagrin the press reports of my testimony before the committee are skewed in such a manner as to suggest that I had been scathingly critical of the last Administration in which I had served and had painted the executive in bad light.

“It is instructive to note that the operational lapses in the other arms of Government that I also made specific mention of in the course of my testimony before the committee were deliberately ignored and were not reported on by the press in their coverage.

“I attended the meeting and questions were asked under oath. Pointed questions relating to the activities of the Ministry were posed to me during the meeting. I informed the committee that I was appointed in February 2018 when the issue of bus purchase had already been on the ground. I also explained that the bus issues were not contained in the budget I managed but could have been in earlier budgets.

“I wish to state that I am not in a position to know what exactly transpired on the issue of the buses as I was not in Government when the issue was tabled and approved by the State Executive Council and neither was I drafted into the bus Steering committee on assumption of duty in February 2018,” Banjo said.