The Nigerian Senate has responded to a PREMIUM TIMES exclusive report exposing its plan to illegally spend an estimated N4.7 billion on exotic cars for its President, Bukola Saraki, and 108 other members.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Aliyu Abdullahi, on Sunday, the upper legislative chamber claimed the vehicles being procured were for committee assignments.
“The vehicles are not meant for individual Senators,” Mr. Abdullahi said. “They are purchased for the use of the committees.”
Mr. Abdullahi did not explain the kind of committee work that demands each of our 109 senators to have individual cars.
He also did not say what the Senate plans to do with the 11 cars that would be left after the 120 cars are distributed to Senators.
Committees of the National Assembly are known to travel for oversight duties in buses, and not in individual cars.
Those who should know have said that the purchase of the cars in the guise of buying it for committees is a ploy to circumvent the monetization policy of government which forbids the purchase of official cars for public officials.
Under the policy, no new vehicles should be purchased by any agency of government for use by public officials.
Rather, public officers and political office holders are to receive 250 per cent of their annual basic salary as motor vehicle loan, which translates to N5.07 million for each senator.
Our sources at the National Assembly said the Senators got these loans before also proceeding to acquire these new Toyota Land Cruisers.
The Senate spokesperson also said the cars in Mr. Saraki’s convoy are so old that they are begging for replacement.
Yet PREMIUM TIMES reports that the cars were only supplied shortly before the end of the last legislative session in June.
Mr. Abdullahi did not also explain why 10 cars were being bought for Mr. Saraki when the law only provides for six cars for him.
PROJECT VEHICLES FOR COMMITTEE WORK, SAYS SENATE
The Senate today (Sunday) dismissed the reports by an online medium, Premium Times seeking to present the upper legislative body as insensitive for proposing to purchase vehicles for the use of members, as it stated that the project vehicles that are to be purchased are meant for the execution of committee assignments.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, the Senate said the automobiles are part of the necessities which the institution usually provide to committees to enable them function without depending on external bodies for effective performance of oversight functions.
“The vehicles are not meant for individual Senators. They are purchased for the use of the committees.
“For those who may want to find out what happened to the ones bought in the past, we cannot expect that after four years, the vehicles will still be in the condition to effectively serve the present committees. The best practice in government institutions and even private organizations is for official vehicles allocated to top officials after four years of use to be sold at the depreciated value”, Abdullahi stated.
“We have been very frugal, responsive and responsible in our spendings. We have also cut down on several expenses. However, there are certain expenses and purchases that are normal in government and any organisation generally. The legislature is not an exception.
“With respect to the official vehicles of the Senate President, it should be noted that majority of the vehicles in his convoy are his personal vehicles while some of the vehicles that he inherited, including his official vehicles and the back up car, are so old that they are already developing faults and not fit for long journey. We can recall that on several occasions, his official car broke down. Three instances will suffice here. I remember on a visit to Nasarawa state for a wedding of the daughter of a colleague. Other occasions were at the National Mosque three weeks ago and at the Abuja airport.
“The implication is that the vehicles in his official convoy are so old that they are already causing embarrassment for the Senate. The media should know that a man of his antecedent will not at this point be excited with purchase of new cars. His official cars are really long overdue for replacement.
“The media should avoid deliberately portraying the legislature as irresponsible and inciting the people against it. We seek the understanding of the media to explain issues and situations to the people. Both the media and the legislature have different roles to play in sustaining our democracy and none should be seen to be undermining the other”, Aliyu stated.
Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi
Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity.