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Stop the Senate’s N4.7b vehicles


Nigeria senate

The senate

THE  plan by the Eighth Senate to buy the 2016 models of 130 luxury vehicles at the cost of  N4.7 billion (depending on the prevailing  naira to dollar exchange rate on date of payment), is both imprudent and  insensitive. The Senate should stop this injudicious use of public fund.

The vehicles, as reported in the  media, and not denied in the Senate response,  are said to be 120 units of Toyota  Landcruiser,  four units each of  Toyota Prado and Hilux van, one unit of Toyota Hiace Bus, and one unit of Mercedes Benz S550 Sedan. The exotic limousine is meant for the Senate president. To the pertinent question of why the vehicles now used for ‘committee work’ and by the president of the immediate past Senate cannot continue in service, the upper chamber spokesperson, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi retorted that, ‘we cannot expect that after four years the vehicles will still be in the condition to effectively serve the present committees.’

He went further to justify the proposed expenditure on the argument that ‘the best practice  in government institutions  and even in private  organisations, is for official vehicles  allocated to  top officials after four years  of use to be sold  at the depreciated value.’ These are merely disingenuous and self-serving explanations for acts inappropriate.

First, under the extant monetisation policy of the Federal Government, officials and political office holders are paid in lieu of vehicle and housing entitlements. They must, therefore, not expect the employer (government) to provide these for them in the course of performing their functions and duties. If, therefore, government/committee vehicles meant for purely committee work were ever sold to legislators under any guise, it was an illegal act contrary to ‘best practices’ that Abdullahi claims.

Second, to say that  top of the range  vehicles  such as assigned to  house committees  could deteriorate so badly with use in just four years (notwithstanding regular maintenance at public  cost) tell  of recklessness of the users. But no one should be shocked if this is the case considering the unenviable attitude of politicians to public resources.

Third, there are 64 committees constituted by 109 senators to oversee 25 federal ministries and their respective departments and agencies. So, why buy 120 committee vehicles? And fourth, how much road travel do lawmakers do in the course of their 180 or so working days in a year, to deserve such investment in their personal comfort?

That it is imprudent to buy so many cars for a house of only 109 members, is overwhelmingly evident at a time that national revenue is falling and public and personal spending are being tightened. Even if it were granted that  the last  Senate  made away with  all of the vehicles bought for official use (and this would be wrong), it cannot be sensible that, in view of prevailing  financial  realities, the new Senate embarks on a vehicle buying spree.

One, the Eighth Senate must consider buying decent but reasonably priced buses to transport members of its committees if and when they must travel by road. Two, it is both a matter of economic sense as well as patriotism that all arms of government patronise local producers of vehicles. Pray, why, in the name of ego-driven display of position and power, should the Senate contribute to the drain of precious foreign exchange from this economy? Three, given the political, economic and social challenges that this country faces and which the Senate is constitutionally bound to take on, are exotic, all and latest options vehicles the most urgent issue the house should address itself to in these times?

Certainly it is not, but going by the nature of the average Nigerian politician to borrow the self-serving ideas, it is regrettable that such ‘triviality’ may be imitated by state legislatures. To discourage this and to show leadership in things that edify, the Senate should halt the purchase of these vehicles.

The federal legislature has for long burdened itself with both credibility and image problems: no one knows for sure how much legislators receive in salaries and allowances; the public holds the impression that legislators spend more time away on recess than doing lawmaking; members live such extravagant lifestyles as give the hapless electorate the impression that politics and public office are less about service and more of a lucrative business. Change-hungry Nigerians had hoped that the bad ways of public office holders would diminish with the coming to power of the All Progressives Congress (APC).  Over N4 billion for luxury vehicles to do ‘committee work’ is definitely contrary to the change of attitude and behaviour in public office that was promised by the APC.

Only six months ago, Senate President Bukola Saraki promised in his swearing-in speech ‘… a change from impunity and elite arrogance to a life of accountability and respect for every citizen…’ N4.7 billion vehicles for the use of only 109 citizens in more or less part-time public service is arrogant; it utterly disrespects the sensibility of the electorate and squanders precious national resources. If the Senate president truly wants a Senate that will be remembered as true representatives of the people, he must lead the house away from blatant profligacy and such acts that waste scarce resources and insult the feelings of a people living in deprivation.

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