The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has taken delivery of new exotic cars purchased by the National Assembly management for his official use, brushing aside widespread criticisms against such lavish spending at a time of national economic crisis.
The Nigerian legislative body is splashing about N4.7 billion on at least 400 vehicles for leaders and members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Among the proposed vehicles were 10 top-of-the-range cars for Mr. Saraki and his official convoy. Market survey showed the vehicles cost N329, 515,625 – more than the budgetary allocations for many government schools.
The report triggered a firestorm of reaction from Nigerians, including President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who urged the National Assembly to shelve the plan.
Mr. Buhari said he had rejected a proposal for new vehicles to be purchased for him as part of 2016 budget expenditure. “I turned down a N400 million bill for cars for the presidency, because the vehicles I am using are good enough for the next 10 years,” the president said during his first media chat.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo also wrote members of the National Assembly asking them to jettison the plan to buy official vehicles. “Whatever name it is disguised as, it is unnecessary and insensitive,” Mr. Obasanjo said.
“A pool of a few cars for each Chamber will suffice for any Committee Chairman or members for any specific duty. The waste that has gone into cars, furniture, housing renovation in the past was mind-boggling and these were veritable sources of waste and corruption. That was why they were abolished. Bringing them back is inimical to the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.”
The National Assembly management has however ignored such concerns and, finalised procurement processes for the vehicles, and indeed took delivery of them for Mr. Saraki.
At least four of the 10 vehicles meant for Mr. Saraki have already been delivered by Lanre Shittu motors and the lawmaker has since put them to use.
Officials briefed about the matter told this newspaper that procurement process for the purchase of vehicles for the senate president was concluded since December.
However, like Mr. Saraki, the tenders board agreed the purchases be made in batches due to paucity of funds, our sources said.
Stressing what the Senate spokesperson, Aliyu Sabi, had earlier said, the source said procuring new vehicles for Mr. Saraki became a “matter of priority” because “the current cars are old and already developing faults”.
Journalists obtained tender documents for the 10 cars Mr. Saraki requested.
In the document, the National Assembly sought to purchase a 2016 model Mercedes Benz S550, four 2016 Toyota Prado jeeps, four 2016 Toyota Hilux SS (Auto) as well as a 2016 model Toyota Hiace Bus.