Despite owing pensioners, Rivers buys N484 million SUVs for federal lawmakers

Cars purchased by Rivers state government for federal lawmakers from the state

The Rivers State Government has bought new SUVs – Toyota Land Cruisers – worth hundreds of millions of naira for the 16 National Assembly members from the state, despite the fact that the state is owing retired civil servants their pensions and gratuities for over three years now.

Three of the vehicles are said to be for the senators, while 13 are for the House of Representatives members.

The State Governor, Nyesom Wike, on Monday, released the vehicles in Port Harcourt to two federal lawmakers who were around, according to a Government House press statement.

The two lawmakers are Betty Apiafi and Bari Mpigi. Both are members of the House of Representatives.

“This is from the Government of Rivers State which you are part of,” Mr. Wike was quoted to have said, as he gave out the new vehicles. “This is to aid you to carry out your official functions in Abuja.

“Defend the interest of the state wherever you are,” he said

Mr. Wike said the vehicles were for all members of the National Assembly, irrespective of party affiliation.

By PREMIUM TIMES’s calculation, the cost of the 16 vehicles should be more than N484.720 million, going by the unit price of $83,665 for a Toyota Land Cruiser in the U.S.

The N484.720 million does not include other costs such as customs duties and clearing cost.

The lawmakers from Rivers, like other federal lawmakers, are entitled to and had received their official vehicles from the National Assembly, Abuja.

Besides, the purchase of the vehicles is coming at a time that Rivers, like most other states in Nigeria, is facing an economic crisis due to the slump in oil prices.

President Muhammadu Buhari a few days ago ordered that more money from the Paris Club refund be released to the states, including Rivers, before Christmas to help ease their financial hardship.

Meanwhile, the Rivers government appears unable to meet its financial obligations to some of its retired civil servants whose main source of income ought to be their pension.

Edward Abibo, the state Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners in Rivers, told PREMIUM TIMES, Monday, that over 1,850 retired civil servants in the state were yet to be accommodated in the state pension payroll for more than three years now, even when, according to him, they went through screening during the state biometric verification exercise.

He also said that the state government for 15 years now hasn’t done an upward review of the pensioners’ monthly take-home.

“An average pensioner collects less than N5,000 monthly from the Rivers State Government,” he said.

“Rivers State Government has remained silent over the Paris Club refund which was meant to help them clear the entitlements of pensioners in the state.

“Our governor has refused to make any comment about the money he has received.

“Those on the contributory pension scheme are also suffering because the state government has refused to contribute its counterpart funds totaling about N30 billion to the pension funds administrators,” Mr. Abibo said, adding that the pensioners were going through terrible hardship and emotional pains.

Apart from the pensioners, Rivers has also been unable to meet the financial needs of its students who are studying abroad under the state foreign scholarship scheme.

The state’s financial burden for the scheme is uncertain for now.

Stranded abroad, the students recently protested in front of Chatham House, London, against Governor Wike who was there to speak on the effort of his administration to develop the oil-rich state.

The state Commissioner for Information, Emma Okah, however defended the purchase of the vehicles. He told PREMIUM TIMES, Monday, that it was a long-standing policy of the state to buy vehicles for federal lawmakers.

“Celestine Omehia did the same thing when he was in office as governor; he bought Toyota Land Cruisers for senators and Toyota Camry for House of Representatives members.

“I don’t know about Amaechi, but I know that he was paying money. So, it is always the policy of the state government to give them support.

“It shouldn’t be seen from the purview that they already have vehicles; it should be seen from the purview that it is part of the entitlements that the state government accords to them.

“Would anybody say that part of the government policy should no longer be carried out?” Mr. Okah said, adding that it took the government more than two years to buy the vehicles because it was doing so in bits because of lack of money.

Mr. Okah said the purchase of the vehicles shouldn’t be compared with the government’s inability to fund the scholarship scheme initiated by the previous administration of Rotimi Amaechi.

“It’s not every policy that you meet that you must continue, particularly if you cannot carry it,” Mr. Okah said.

“By the admission of one of the students who spoke inside the Chatham House, the payment that should be made to the final year students alone in the foreign scholarship scheme is N3 billion.

“If you put final year students, put the fourth year, third years and the rest of them together, how much would that be for a state government in one year?

“Now, the government has come out very clearly to say look those who are doing core science courses continue to stay there, we will manage to pay and we have been paying. Those who are doing arts-related and management courses, those courses that can effectively be taught in Nigeria, please come back, we will secure admission for you and give you scholarship here in Nigeria.

“Some of them are attracted by the lure of staying overseas, they don’t want to come back home.

“So, if you cannot carry a problem and you give reasons why you cannot, the minimum that anybody expects is understanding. Even in homes, if things change for a family and they can no longer do the kind of things they use to do, eat the kind of food they used to eat, and drive the kind of vehicles they used to drive, you scale down according to your circumstances,” the commissioner said.

The commissioner said it wasn’t true that some pensioners in the state were receiving as low as N5, 000.

He said Governor Wike deserved commendation for clearing salary and pension arrears that were left behind by the Amaechi administration.

“Pension is not the only problem that the Rivers State Government has to contend with. There may be cases where pension have not been extended to a few persons for one reason or the other, some due to the biometric problem, some due to the fraudulent pension system that the government has to battle with and all of that.

“I am not saying that we are running a 100 per cent perfect administration; the point I am making is that where we have done well, it is important that people should appreciate us. We are calling for the understanding of everybody,” the commissioner said.

Magnus Abe, an All Progressives Congress, APC, senator from the state, is among the beneficiaries of the new vehicles.

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr. Abe, he corroborated what was said by the information commissioner.

“As far as I know, every government in Rivers State in the past has bought vehicles for the legislators at the national level. It has been like that for sometimes.

“I have not received a vehicle so far from this administration, but I have heard that the governor gave out vehicles today.

“But for the question, whether it is okay to buy those vehicles or not considering the present day economic realities, it is the governor who should be able to make that determination because he knows his challenges and his priorities,” the senator said.


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  • Arabakpura

    Magnus Abe’s answer should confirm to the people that all the politicians are the same and fight for themselves alone; they should stop killing and maiming themselves for their sake!

  • Kunle Hammed

    Government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. We need total revolution in this country to reset people’s mindset.

  • okpada

    Mr Project is our governor. You all celebrated him during the campaign, election proper and thereafter. What is happening now? Time will tell

  • Netanyahu

    For God’s sake, who said a state governor owns the resources of the state and dispenses it as he pleases. What manner of democracy allows this? What is the role of the state legislature? Who approved this expenditure? Fed lawmakers are receiving humongous salaries and allowances, sometimes for doing absolutely nothing. They, lawmakers, not long ago received brand new vehicles for “doing their job”. Why use the scarce resources of the state on them again when pensioners are owed arrears of their monthly stipend? Can people be more wicked than our politicians? Even the opposition lawmakers will receive the SUVs and ‘clean their mouths” and turn around to instigate some miscreants to go to war on their behalf. I would want to hear of one beneficiary that rejected this bribe.

    • Rafiu ebiti

      State legislatures in Nigeria report to the ruling governor.the only thing they do is impeach the speaker and his deputy.then they RUBBER STAMP the governor’s budget.chikena

    • Owejah

      If Mr Project has been busy paying salaries and the ever increasing army of pensioners, he will not today be known as Mr Project. Godwin Abe said Wike knows his challenges and his priorities and I agree with him. Those of us not pleased with Mr Project’s decision should wait for him at the next election if we are bold enough to face fire, or better still contest against him.

      • rules_emmanuelO.

        Kindly make sense!

  • Galantman

    The same workers who are owned salaries will allow themselves to be divided along ethnic and religious lines during political campaign, and finally sell the votes to people of questionable integrity. We are a product of our decisions

  • Charles

    Government of the rich by the poor and for the rich. All the rich are brothers and sisters and all the poor are brothers and sisters.

  • Oskirin

    na God go punish ds set of governors wey dey put pensioners and civil servants in ds conditions weda apc or pdp.

  • Jason

    Are citizens really meant to be purnished by these political leaders? They are so so vile. National Assembly members already have vehicles allocated to them through their budgets for personal use and extras for Committee works. What a country what a set of heartless leaders.

    • MilitaryPolice01 [Joint Chief]

      Bro, the wickedness of these men is troubling to say the least

  • rules_emmanuelO.

    Continuous flagrant disregard for the sensibilities of the governed! Where is the place of due diligence and responsible leadership? Of the basic economic ideals of equitable wealth distribution and scale of preferences in public mgt.?
    Posterity would hold Nyesom Wike, Okorocha, PMB and their class of political terrorists accountable!

  • rules_emmanuelO.

    The day is coming when citizens will stone a politician to death! It is coming! The revolution will come! It certainly will!
    With the increasing popularity of social media as a tool for social/political engagement, the people are becoming increasingly aware of the finer workings of Nigerian governing class (and their many injustices). Tensions are rising, and a revolution is near.

  • 45Degree

    This is the same Wike who was disrespecting River State’s Scholarship winners who complained of NOT receiving disbursements. He told them to F off!!! We just have to wake up and UNDERSTAND who are the REALLY cause of our poverty. This is very UNKIND. Very very SAD.

    I will not blaming this guy, because these idiots, whom he has NO respect for will turn around and blame Buhari for their problem or blame Fulani herdsmen or Yoruba or Islam. Are we not crazy in this country? Something is really wrong the way we analyze and process things.