The Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, has condemned the controversy surrounding the Senate’s budget of N5,550 billion for the purchase of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs).
He said Nigerian senators deserve SUVs and it is an insult to say otherwise, Punch Newspaper reports.
The status of a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not undeserving of an SUV, he told journalists in Abuja on Wednesday.
“What is the problem there? It is an insult to say that a senator of the Federal Republic cannot ride a jeep in Nigeria. It is an insult. The N5.5bn is from the National Assembly fund and it is budgeted for every year, which they will pay back at the end of the tenure.
“I was a permanent secretary. I know what ministers get; we cannot even compare ourselves to ministers because we are higher than the minister(s). For you to say that a senator of the Federal Republic cannot drive a jeep today — come on, that is an insult.
“Go and tell the people that the work that we do is more than the work of ministers. The weight that is on me today; there is no minister of the Federal Republic that has it. The collapse of the local government areas across the country had placed a burden on senators who “carry loads outside their purview,” he said.
Many Nigerians including the senator often describe all SUVs as ‘jeep’.
The lawmaker explained that each of the 109 senators in the upper chamber would get one SUV, which would be paid for at the end of their four-year legislative tenure.
He also said the ninth Senate will ensure the independence of the local government structure to boost national development and stability of the grassroots economy.
Mr Abdullahi’s comments comes almost three weeks after civic groups and over 6000 concerned Nigerians filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court to “restrain, prevent and stop the National Assembly Service Commission from paying or releasing the sum of N5.550 billion budgeted for purchase of luxury cars for principal members of the ninth Senate, and to restrain and stop the Senate from collecting the money until the downward review of the amount proposed by the Senate.”
The groups described the planned purchase of luxury vehicles as unjust and unfair. The suit said it negates the constitutional oath of office made by members to perform their functions in the interest of the well-being and prosperity of Nigeria and its citizens, as contained in the Seventh Schedule of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended).
Among other things, the groups demanded an order restraining the National Assembly Service Commission from paying out or releasing the sum of N5.550 billion proposed, earmarked and budgeted for the purchase of vehicles for principal members of Senate [National Assembly] until the downward review of the amount proposed by the ninth Senate.