The quest for exotic cars by the lawmakers is insensitive and embarrassing

At a time when the cost of living has soared and Nigerians are struggling to cope, the news of the purchase of new cars amounting to N4.7 billion for the federal lawmakers is difficult to believe. But then, we are dealing with a class of public officials who do not care about ordinary citizens. Even though the House of Representatives seems to have put the idea on hold, the Senate has indeed gone ahead to purchase some exotic cars, to satisfy perhaps some of its members who are notorious for childish display of vanities.

It was President Muhammadu Buhari who first expressed his disgust about the matter at his inaugural media session, wondering why so much was being budgeted for cars by the National Assembly members. That was followed by a letter from former President Olusegun Obasanjo asking the lawmakers to reconsider their action. But the interventions were to no avail. Available reports indicate that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has already taken delivery of some of these expensive vehicles for the use of his office.

The frequent fascination of our politicians, especially the lawmakers, with creature toys testifies perhaps to an unsettling reality about the calibre of people who decide for us. At the commencement of every legislative tenure, there is always this quarrel about vehicles and how much public money should be lavished on providing them for our lawmakers. Yet, these are the same men and women who already have fleets of cars, some of which were acquired from previously held public offices.

We are worried not only because the economy is in dire straits and cannot support such outlandish expenditures, but also because the monetisation policy introduced by the Obasanjo administration is being breached. After collecting upfront their allowances for accommodation, cars, clothing, etc., the lawmakers are also expending public funds on the same items. Therefore, between greed and poverty of the mind, if we dig a bit deep, we may find out why the legislators have decided to defy the harsh economic realities of these times to go shopping once again for an armada of cars.

If we look closely at the role profile of our legislators and compute the relationship between what the public spends on each of them vis-a-vis their output in real terms over a four-year tenure, certain unkind truths stare us in the face. Perhaps we do not need a full time legislature. We need part-time legislators who will arrange their own transportation, housing and draw a sensible allowance while in session.

More importantly, a system that keeps electing people with no proper means of livelihood, little self-esteem and an overdose of greed is perhaps the basis for this repeated fascination with free cars, free furniture and even free clothing. What is even more galling is that where their emoluments are concerned, the National Assembly operates like a secret cult. Nigerians still do not know what the lawmakers earn, just as the details of their annual budget are hardly the subject of public scrutiny. There is even a comic dimension to this whole rascality. The lawmakers get a wardrobe allowance but when you watch them in session on national television, most of them appear like clowns!

Yes, lawmakers should be provided the tools to ply their trade, but the quest for exotic cars per lawmaker appears to be an undue indulgence and an insensitive strain on the nation’s lean resources. If the hapless masses are being told daily to adjust their tastes and priorities, those elected by the same masses cannot be seen to be lounging in a swathe of opulence. We believe that pool cars and vehicles could be bought to enable committees perform effectively their oversight functions. That is one way of reducing cost.