By Segun Odeleye
N4.7billion. That’s how much the senate wants to use to buy 120 cars for its 109 senators, with 11 more cars to spare.
The news of the Senate’s inordinate plan broke at a time when the nation is experiencing severe cash shortages due to the falling price of oil and governors are threatening to halt the payment of the N18,000 minimum wage. Also, by law, cars should not be bought for senators, as it contravenes the monetisation policy of the government.
On Sunday evening, the senate released a statement in response to the report with a feeble response which assumed (wrongly) that all Nigerians are dummies.
“The vehicles are not meant for individual senators. They are purchased for the use of committees,” said Aliyu Abdullahi, the spokesman of the senate.
The senators tried to play smart by claiming that they had to buy the cars so that they would not be beholden to any external influence. The cars, Sen. Abdullahi said, 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.”
What Sen. Abdullahi’s statement did not explain was why 120 Toyota Land Cruisers were needed when the senate had only 65 committees if truly the cars were just for committee work. Besides it is a known fact that senators go out on oversight functions as a group and not individually. There is also the small issue of the extra 11 cars which would be left after all the senators have gotten one car each (or the extra 55 cars after each committee gets a car).
The effrontery of the senate in attempting to make this expense despite having received N5.07 million (250 per cent of their annual salary) as vehicle loan is shocking. But apparently not shocking enough that Sen Abdullahi wouldn’t attempt to explain.
“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.
The senate praised itself for being “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.”
The statement also defended the need for senate president Bukola Saraki to get ten new cars in his convoy. 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.”
“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.