Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate Wednesday justified the N5.5 billion voted for the procurement of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) for each of the 479 members of the Ninth Assembly saying the amount was part of the 2019 approved budget of the National Assembly.
It therefore described the hue and cry over the planned purchase of the utility cars as nonsensical.
The move by management of the National Assembly to purchase the vehicles was roundly condemned by some concerned citizens and social crusaders led by the Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, while reacting to criticism trailing the purchase of the vehicles told newsmen that the N5.5 billion voted for the official vehicles was part of the N125 billion National Assembly budget passed for this year.
He said, “The N5.5 billion is from the national Assembly fund and not money being sought from any other source. Besides, the scheme as it has always been with previous Assemblies, is a monetised one , requiring each of the lawmakers to pay back the cost of whatever vehicle given to them”.
Abdullahi said it was highly insulting that some public commentators were criticising and kicking against the move .
According to him, there is nothing for anybody to cry over as far as the plan is concerned , because a serving Senator and his counterpart in the House of Representatives , deserve to have an official vehicle in the mode of a functional utility vehicle or Jeep.
“To say that a senator of the Federal Republic cannot ride a jeep in Nigeria is an insult. The outcry over it is very unnecessary and insulting to the Institution of the National Assembly and status of the federal lawmakers, he stated. The Senate Leader went further: “When I was a Permanent Secretary, I know what ministers get, we cannot even compare ourselves with ministers because we are higher than the ministers.
“Each of the ministers move in convoy of three to four Utility Vehicles without anybody raising any eyebrow while some people who either as a result of ignorance or mischief , always cry to high heavens anytime management of the National Assembly wants to buy just one Utility vehicle for a lawmaker on the template of monetisation.
“Go and tell the people that the work that we do at the National Assembly is more than the work of ministers and as representatives of the people, money we spend on daily basis to all forms of indigent people, far far outweighs whatever they as Ministers or executive officers spend”.
Both Chambers of the National Assembly, he further said, are ready at anytime to engage any group of people in the polity on its operations and spendings in line with the principles of accountability and transparency the 9th National Assembly stands for .