Members of the National Assembly made up of the Senate and House of Representatives are enjoying life as they await stock of new 496 cars even as many Nigerians complain of the hard economy.
Senate President Bukola Saraki (Left), Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Reps (Right)
Four months after senators were given N8m naira each for car loans in August this year, it has been revealed that the senators and house of representative members will receive an additional 496 new cars all at the expense of taxpayers.
According to Daily Trust, during the 7th Senate, the senators used Prado jeeps but this time around, they have opted for more expensive cars. Throwing more light on this, Senate spokesperson, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi said the cars are for committee use. However, it was exclusive gathered that the senators will get a car each.
It was also gathered that during the 7th Senate, the cars acquired for the committees were sold to the senators at N1m.
“To the best of my knowledge the cars we used at the 7th Senate were monetised to us, I think, at N1m each and the money was deducted from our severance package,” a senator who benefitted said.
He also confirmed receipt of the vehicle loan in August, saying, “we were given three allowances in August and they are car loan, housing and furniture allowances, all amounting to N18m”.
At the House of Representatives, a source revealed that in line with the tradition of the House, vehicles would be bought for members to use for committee assignments. Even during the immediate past 7th House, the 360 lawmakers got a Camry XL car each, which our source said was bought at the sum of about N12 million, including insurance.
Our source said: “yes, we learnt they want to do the same thing that was done during the last Assembly, where each member got a car, but they said it was for committee activities.”
The source said the Camry XL cars purchased for members during the last Assembly were monetized at the end of their tenure in June and the money was deducted from their severance packages, while few members opted not to buy the cars.
“Initially, they valued the cars at N1.750 million, but members protested, because most of the cars were not in good shape. In the end, they settled at N900, 000, so those of us who wanted to go with our own applied, and they deducted it from our severance, while a few members returned their own,” the source said.
But House spokesman Rep Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa) said although leadership of the lower chamber plans to purchase cars to aid members during committees’ oversights, they were yet to reach a decision on the number and the brand of cars to buy.
“There’s no doubt that we’ll buy cars, but they will be for committee use. We haven’t decided on any brand or units to buy yet until we see our 2016 budget. We don’t want to do anything that cannot be realised at the end of the day,” he said.
Namdas said already, management of the National Assembly had advertised that it would purchase television sets, computers and photocopiers for lawmakers’ use.
“We want to have a transparent process based on the Procurement Act,” he said, adding that all the principal officers were completely excluded from the deal in order for the management staff to do their work. Asked if there is any plan to purchase new vehicles for Speaker Yakubu Dogara and his deputy Yussuf Suleimon Lasun, the House spokesman said he was not aware of any such thing.
However, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) Auwal Musa Rafsanjani said as far as he was concerned, the vehicles were being bought for fun and not for any committee work. He said for them, it is part of the process of “sharing national cake” that Nigerian politicians are known for, saying “it is all largess,” describing it as a fraud.
“Agreed there should be a car for every committee, but to buy a vehicle for every member out of the 360 legislators in the name of committee work is wrong. It’s all as a result of lack of transparency and accountability in the management of public funds,” he said.
Rafsanjani said so long as committees would be encouraged to do their work diligently and be provided with relevant facilities to aid oversight, individual lawmakers should only be given car loans, which they would repay before the end of their tenure.
“In other parliaments that I personally visited around the world, there’s nothing like vehicles for individual legislators to go for committee work. They only provide them with facilities where necessary, why should our own be different?” he said.
On auctioning the vehicles to the lawmakers at the end of their 4-year tenure, Rafsanjani insisted “it is a fraud” since they were given car loans from the beginning of their tenure. The CISLAC director also said that even the oversight being carried out by lawmakers was just to “intimidate and harass government agencies” into succumbing to the demands of the legislators.
“Oversight is supposed to be for corrective measures, but that is not what they do. They only use it to intimidate and harass agencies, although I’m sure there won’t be any loose fund for agencies to be giving them under this administration.
“Most of the legislators don’t even understand what oversight is because they’re new. The committees themselves are not independent, so how do you expect them to perform their functions effective. So, for me, there should be a complete overhaul of the legislative work in Nigeria so that the legislators will understand what they are elected to do,” he said.
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