The Senate on Wednesday said it was “highly insulting” for some persons to say lawmakers should not get an official cars.
The Senate spoke following the public outrage that has trailed the decision of the National Assembly to purchase N5.5 billion worth of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for the 469 members of the National Assembly. The Senate is made up of 109 Senators while the House of Representatives has 360 members.
Some Nigerians and organisations, including the Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), have sued leadership and management of the National Assembly over the matter.
But speaking with reporters in Abuja on Wednesday, Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullahi described criticisms over the planned purchase of the vehicles as “highly insulting”.
He said the outcry over the cost of the vehicles were uncalled for, stressing that every member of the Senate and House of Representatives deserved to have an official vehicle in the mode of a functional utility vehicle.
Abdullahi 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 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. We are higher than 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 daily basis on all forms of indigent people far outweighs whatever they, as Ministers or executive officers, spend.”
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 transparent.
“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,” said.
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.