The Senate on Wednesday flayed public outrage over plans by the National Assembly to purchase N5.5 billion worth of Sports Utility Vehicles for the 469 members in the bicameral federal legislature.
Some concerned Nigerians, including the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) are already in court challenging the decision of the management of the National Assembly on the matter.
But Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi in an interview with journalists in his office, described criticisms over the planned purchase of the vehicles as “highly insulting”
Abdullahi said the outcry over the cost of the vehicles was uncalled for, stressing that every member of the two chambers of the National Assembly deserved to have an official vehicle in the mode of a functional utility vehicle.
The Senate Leader said, “To say that a senator of the Federal Republic cannot ride a jeep in Nigeria is an insult. 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 was given to them.
“The outcry over it is very unnecessary and insulting to the institution of the National Assembly and status of the federal lawmakers. When I was a Permanent Secretary, I know what Ministers get. We cannot even compare ourselves with ministers we are higher than the Ministers.
“Go and tell the people that the work that we do, is more than the work of Ministers and as representatives of the people, the money we spend on a daily basis on all forms of indigent people, far outweighs whatever they as Ministers or executive officers spend”.
Senator Abdullahi said the federal legislature would be ready to engage any group of people on its operations and spendings, stressing that actions of the National Assembly have always been in tandem with the principles of transparency and accountability.
“Each of the Ministers moves in convoy of three to four utility vehicles without anybody raising an eyebrow, while some people, who, either as a result of ignorance or mischief, always cry to high heavens anytime the management of the National Assembly wants to buy just one utility vehicle for a lawmaker on the template of monetisation”, he added.
The Senate leader commended the executive arm for rolling out the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
The two documents form the basis upon which the 2020 budget proposals will be presented by President Muhammadu Buhari anytime soon.
With the move, the country may revert to the old tradition of January to December budget circle. The country has been operating a May/June cycle as a result of the delay in the budget passage over the years.