THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY VEHICLE SCANDAL

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The decision by the National Assembly to buy luxury cars in these lean times is insensitive

Despite strong opposition from members of the public, the Senate has taken delivery of no fewer than 36 Toyota Land Cruiser Sport

Utility Vehicles (SUVs) at N35 million apiece, a cost that is reportedly far higher than their market value. The House of Representatives has also given out a letter of intent to Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN) to supply 360 vehicles for each member at a total cost of N3.6 billion. But as critical stakeholders who have waded in have argued, for the legislators to prioritise buying for themselves some luxury vehicles at a time most Nigerians are going through difficult times demonstrates a high level of insensitivity and recklessness.

Indeed, at a period when there is a compelling need for the elected representatives of the people to ensure robust and timely legislation, and oversight so that Nigerians can begin to derive the benefits of good governance, the lawmakers seem to care more about their privileges. Indeed, this session of the National Assembly, especially the Senate, is about to set the standard on how a legislature can become a subversion of all the ethical aspirations that ought to drive a society.

On this particular matter of 108 (or 36) SUVs, for instance, despite monetisation, and after collecting some spurious car loans just a few months ago, it is unfortunate that Nigerians would be wasting time debating the propriety of senators who, oblivious to the hunger in the land, would go and acquire some expensive toys essentially to satisfy their greed. If these cars are needed for necessary oversight trips to difficult terrains as being touted, why not buy a dozen of such vehicles and put them in a pool that senators can sign for when such official trips become imperative?

Mr. Ayuba Wabba, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) rightly described as “appalling, insensitive and greedy”, the decision of the Senate, coming after their collection of car “loans” in August 2015 for the same purpose. “It is equally morally despicable and shameful that they are doing this after publicly admitting that the standing committees of the Senate are unable to perform their statutory functions due to the paucity of funds,” said Wabba. “We at the Nigeria Labour Congress equally consider it a wilful and grievous criminal act, the inflation of the unit cost of each of the cars by over a 100 per cent, as each car supposedly cost N35.1 million instead of N17 million.” Wondering whether the funds could not have been put to better use such as the constituency projects of the same senators, especially at a time Nigerians face severe economic challenges, the NLC described as laughable and childish the defence offered by the Senate spokesperson, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi that “special advisers use jeeps, why not senators?”

We align ourselves with those views. But more worrying is that beyond this particular malfeasance is the institutional corruption for which the National Assembly seems to be very notorious. The controversy over the yet-to-be signed 2016 budget exemplifies this concern but what is even more galling is that our lawmakers act in a manner that suggests they care little about the public mood.

The sheer lack of transparency that shrouds this transaction and the magnitude of the financial outlay are reflective of the enormous rot in our system today. While we do not believe the senators who have already taken possession of the vehicles will return them, we hope they will understand that they are fast losing credibility with the Nigerian people they are expected to serve.