Senate May Spend N5.5b On Official Cars For Members

The leadership of the National Assembly has begun moves to procure operational vehicles for the lawmakers that make up its dual legislative chambers.

It was learned yesterday that meetings in that regard started among presiding officers in the Senate even before the apex legislative body embarked on its eight-week recess, which ends on September 24, 2019.

A National Assembly official confirmed the meetings on condition of anonymity, saying the cost of the cars would be deducted from lawmakers’ allowances.

He hinted that the preferred brand being considered for senators is Toyota Land Cruiser Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV).

The Bukola Saraki-led Eighth Senate spent not less than N4 billion at that time to purchase the brand at a cost of N36 million. Two extra cars were also bought.

With the estimated current price of the vehicle now N50 million, the Senate might need about N5.550 billion to get enough quantity for its members, and two additional vehicles.

The chamber has always maintained that the cars are not for the luxury cravings of individual senators but to enhance the operations of committees.

It was learned that the cars would be meant specifically for all chairmen and vice-chairmen of Senate committees. But with the Senate now having 69 of such committees, the stage appears set for every member to be appointed as either chairman or vice-chairman.

About N1.3 billion was expended on procuring vehicles for senators in 2012, a development that attracted severe public criticism. At the time, 109 cars were bought for the lawmakers, each costing N11. 07 million.

Senate spokesman, Adedayo Adeyeye, could not be reached for comments as he failed to pick his calls. He did not reply to text messages either.

The management of the National Assembly was also silent on the alleged abuse of the Procurement and Monetisation Acts following accusations that fairly used vehicles and property were sold at give-away prices to former lawmakers.

The Clerk of the National Assembly, Muhammed Sani Omolori, did not respond to calls for comments.

Some of the items sold to members of the Eighth Senate and House of Representatives at scandalous prices include Toyota Land Cruiser SUVs and office equipment such as computers, photocopiers, and refrigerators.

The management reportedly sold the SUVs, which had been bought for between N24 million and N26 million each, to the departing lawmakers at a paltry N1 million.

It was also said to have received only N360,000 from the lawmakers for a set consisting of two televisions, a photocopier, desktop computers, and a big refrigerator.

All the items handed almost freely to the legislators would apparently be purchased afresh and supplied to members of the Ninth Assembly inaugurated on June 11, 2019.

It was however learned that the cost of the new computers, scanners, photocopying machines, television sets, and refrigerators would be deducted from the severance package of the retiring legislators.

Meanwhile, Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege has assured Nigerians that the Ninth National Assembly will provide an enabling environment for the implementation of the ‘Next Level’ agenda of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

This was contained in a statement released yesterday by Omo-Agege’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Yomi Odunuga.

Odunuga said the Deputy Senate President gave the assurance when he visited President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura, Katsina State to felicitate with him on the Eid-el Kabir celebrations.

“Going forward, the National Assembly is ready to provide the enabling environment for the contents of the next level agenda to be implemented,” Omo-Agege was quoted as saying.

He added: “No doubt, ministers-designate were carefully selected before their nomination by Mr. President. We have full faith and confidence in Mr. President’s judgment in the selection process.

“Our job at the Senate is to ensure that all nominees meet the constitutional requirements for membership of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which are very simple. So, to a lot of us, it was a checklist: the moment we found out that you are a Nigerian citizen, you are a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), you were cleared.

“You meet the basic educational qualification, which is education up to school certificate level; and you should not have been convicted of a crime within the last 10 years. We went through that. We relied on the confidence and capacity of Mr. President to do the right thing, which he has done.”