OrderPaperToday – The senate resumes September 24, 2019 after its annual recess. Senators will however, resume into the raging controversy over the purchase of cars for performance of their official duties.

Reports that the 9th senate under the leadership of Ahmad Lawan plans to spend N5.5 billion for the purchase of vehicles has riled some sections of the public to no end. This is especially against the background that the federal legislature is notorious for financial controversies and cases of wasteful spending.

Recurring controversy…

The preceding 8th National Assembly was also in similar bad light over purchase of exotic cars for operations of members and the management. For this purpose, over N6.5billion was reportedly spent to buy Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for the performance of committee assignments, including oversight functions. These vehicles wee different from the monetized personal vehicle loan scheme on which the House then spent over N6.1billion for the purchase of Peugeot saloon cars. According to media reports, these vehicles were delivered between 2016 and 2017. About four years down the line, same national assembly now require new cars. This therefore raises the poser: Is a four year old vehicle unfit for usage?

Reaction of the senate…

Spokesperson of the Senate, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, had risen stoutly in defence of the planned purchases. He said the vehicles bought in the 8th Senate are no longer serviceable or have been sold off to the last users. “Some of the vehicles they bought four years ago were no longer serviceable while others have probably been sold to their users,” Adeyeye had said recently.

While the details of the purchase is yet to emerge officially and there remains a blurry explanation of who the real beneficiaries (principal officers or standing committees) are, there are some burning questions yet unanswered.

Are vehicles that are less than 4 years not really serviceable as claimed by senate spokesman? In a country where majority of citizens rely on used cars, it could be hard to sell to Nigerians that brand new vehicles imported in 2017 are no longer useful and as such, there is a recurring need to acquire new ones every legislative year.

More questions than answers…

Questions also arise necessarily about who acquired the vehicles as suggested by Adeyeye. Who are the last users he referred to? The committee chairmen? How much did they buy those vehicles? Who determined the value fit for disposal?

Why is the purchase focused only and mostly on lawmakers and management staff? Are workers of the National Assembly not entitled to benefit from the vehicle bazaar? It is noteworthy that many staff of the National Assembly constantly make use of rickety-looking vehicles to convey them from the Federal Secretariat terminus to the entrance of the legislature at a cost of at least N30.00 per trip.

While these questions remain valid and needful of convincing answers, there is also the argument that since other arms of government are involved in the car purchase ritual, there has been undue attention on the national assembly by the public.

A case of double standards?

Recently, a group of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) coordinated the filing of a lawsuit at the Federal High Court, Lagos State, to stop the purchase of the vehicles. Some have argued that it would also be interesting to see such actions against the executive and the judiciary which also purchase vehicles for official use frequently. This kind of argument may have emboldened the Senate’s Spokesman to retort that the suit as “an exercise in futility” particularly if the amount has been budgeted for.

 

Additional reporting by Majeed Bakere

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