The Ninth Senate has dismissed the public outcry over the N5.5 billion allocated for the purchase of vehicles for lawmakers in the 2019 budget, regarding it as an “insult”.
The Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, said it is highly insulting that some public commentators are criticising and kicking against the allocation for the purchase of the vehicles which was part of the N125 billion appropriation of the National Assembly.
“To say that a senator of the Federal Republic cannot ride a jeep in Nigeria is an insult.”, Abdullahi said during an interview with journalists in his office at the National Assembly.
Criticism followed the plan by the Ninth National Assembly to purchase Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for each of the 469 federal lawmakers at a total cost amounting to N5.5 billion.
This move has resulted in litigation by some concerned citizens and social crusaders led by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
According to Senator Abdullahi, there is nothing for anybody to cry over as far as the plan is concerned because a serving senator and members of the House of Representatives deserve to have official vehicles in the mode of a functional utility vehicle or Jeep.
“The N5.5 billion is from the National Assembly funds 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 is 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 because we are higher than the ministers.” He said.
Enforcing his stance, he said, “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 daily basis on all forms of indigent people, far outweighs whatever they as ministers or executive officers spend.”
He added that both chambers of the National Assembly would be willing to engage any group of people in the polity on its operations and spending in line with the principles of accountability and transparency the National Assembly represented.
“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 the management of the National Assembly wants to buy just one utility vehicle for a lawmaker on the template of monetisation,” he stated.
Sen. Abdullahi then commended the executive on the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), the basis upon which the 2020 budget proposals will be presented next month by President Muhammadu Buhari in moving the yearly budgetary cycle from May/ June as it is presently to January to Decembe