Mudashiru Obasa, the Speaker of the Lagos House of Assembly, has been accused of financial impropriety, illegal diversion of funds, and abuse of office, sparking a scandal that could have significant impact on the politics and leadership of the state.
The ObasaGate coverage in a nutshell: Sahara Reporters released a series of leaked documents in its exclusive reporting on Obasa’s alleged corruption.
- Awarded a N17m monthly contract to a proxy company for maintenance of his private residence, guesthouse, and office.
- Paid N10m monthly to one of his wives from state assembly’s funds.
- Forwarded N27m allocated as running cost for the office of Speaker to his private account in addition to aforementioned 17 million naira monthly maintenance.
- Fraudulently obtained approval to spend N350m from the Executive branch after misrepresenting the facts of an event.
- Billed the House for a N45m Christmas party that never took place.
- Expended N53m on a foreign trip with a lover.
- Retroactively approved N258m for the production of invitation cards for an inauguration ceremony, two months after it took place.
- Recruited social media influencers with the sum of N60m to personally defend him against the allegations.
- Received N80m estacode (with 18 other House members) for attending a five-day event in Dubai.
Backstory: Since the turn of the year, Mudashiru Obasa has been enmeshed in a political struggle. This is reported to be motivated by the desire of some members of the House, with the backing of other influential figures, notably a ranking Senator from the state, to force a change in the leadership of the Assembly. In March, the crisis got into the public domain when four members, including two principal officers, were suspended and their offices ransacked.
Why it matters: The crisis in the Assembly is likely connected with a bigger fissure in the ruling All Progressives Congress in Lagos with leading figures, some occupying important federal positions, jostling for influence and control within the state. This could negatively impact governance and distract the Assembly from its important duties of oversight and policymaking amid a crippling pandemic that has slowed revenue and caused the awarding of special intervention fund to the state.
The #Obasagate revelations, though product of yet-to-be-verified leaks, have renewed concerns over the lack of transparency in the operations of the Lagos State Government. For years, the state government has faced criticism from NGOs focused on public spending for refusing to publish details of its especially fat annual budget, instead of the released thumbnails that offer little insight and thus make accountability and due diligence almost impossible.
What to watch: Whether or not the EFCC will commence investigations of the allegations made against the Speaker – as it has been petitioned to. Unlike the Governor and Deputy Governor of the State, Speaker Mudashiru Obasa does not enjoy immunity from prosecution, though he may be wishing that attempts to undo this in the National Assembly through a constitutional amendment had been successful.