Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The House of Representatives has said that the outrage of the Social-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and other Nigerians over the approved 400 Toyota Camrys for the legislators is misplaced and better directed at the over 400 parastatals of the executive.
SERAP and 192 concerned Nigerians had filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Abuja to restrain and stop the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and all members of the House from spending an estimated N5.04 billion to buy 400 exotic cars for principal officers and members.
The Spokesman of the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, in a statement issued yesterday, insisted that considering the state of Nigerian roads, which he said the executive is responsible for fixing, SUVs and not saloon cars or Camrys, should be approved for use by legislators in their official duties.
He stated: “While it is understandable that the legislature, being the closest arm of government to the people has to bear the brunt of their frustrations at the executive arm of government, we must take care that our bias against the legislature does not become a grand act of self-sabotage.”
“I would also go further as to say that considering the state of Nigerian roads (which the executive is responsible for fixing by the way) SUVs and not saloon cars or Camrys, should be approved for use by legislators in their official duties.”
Kalu noted that describing official vehicles for legislators as luxury is a misconception, while lamenting that Nigerians easily lose sight of the importance and utilitarian value of the legislature “whenever they relish that red-hot chilli stew of sweet outrage at government”.
He argued that all ministers, permanent secretaries, directors, assistant directors and management level staff of the 42 ministries and 400 parastatals of the executive arm, with its over 15,000 nationwide offices are routinely given official vehicles; not to mention the 180 judges and justices of the federal judiciary along with their senior level staff who are entitled to official vehicles including SUVs.
The House spokesman stressed that the legislature carries out an important duty of oversight as mandated by sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution.
He said this singular duty routinely exposes the corruption and inefficiencies of the executive often amounting to trillions of naira, the very inefficiencies which create the dissatisfaction of Nigerians with government.