The Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule, on Tuesday, presented brand new SUVs to 25 first-class traditional rulers in the state, valued at over N800 million, if purchased directly from the manufacturer.
This expenditure is despite the fact that local government workers in Nasarawa are being paid modulated salaries and some state workers are owed for two months.
Workers ,who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, described the project as a misplaced priority but the state government said it was initiated by the local governments.
The state government also refused to say how much was spent to acquire the vehicles and the source of the fund.
Mr Sule presented the 25 brand new Lexus SUVs to first class traditional rulers in the state to mark his second anniversary in office.
Presenting the keys of the vehicles to the royal fathers at the Government House in Lafia, the governor said the vehicles are to ease the discharge of their responsibilities, “considering the vital role the royal fathers are playing in the maintainance and sustenance of security in the state.”
In his speech on the occasion, the Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) in Nasarawa, Muazu Aminu, said the project, which enjoyed the ‘express’ approval of the state government, was conceived by relevant “stakeholders,” including the local council chairmen and the ministry of local government development and chieftaincy affairs.
“This was an issue that started long term ago — almost a year. It was initiated and put together by the various stakeholders in the state – that is the commissioner and other bureaucrats in the ministry of local government development and chieftaincy affairs and the 13 local government Council chairmen.
“When this issue was agreed by all of us, we took it under the honourable commissioner to His Excellency and His Excellency expressly gave his note and blessings.
“It might interest all of us to know that His Excellency never interfered in the process for the procurement of these vehicles. He specifically mentioned it that there was no interest and luckily all of us followed the clue and the result is here for all of us to see,” Mr Aminu said.
All government officials, who spoke at the event, including the governor, were silent on the source of the money used to procure the vehicles.
Nevertheless, Governor Sule promised that the next batch of cars will be distributed to the second class and third class traditional rulers.
“Now, it goes back to other traditional rulers, the second class and the third class, we are going in that line. God is with us. We are trying as much as possible to ensure that this is the first hurdle, the next hurdle is going to be our second class and third class traditional rulers to get their own,” he assured.
Cost of vehicles? Keep guessing – Governor
On the cost of the vehicles, Mr Sule said they got the best deals, noting that he was not going to mention the amount spent on each.
“Keep guessing,” he told the audience, who cheered with another round of applause.
But checks by this newspaper showed that each of the Lexus LX 570 2020 model would cost nothing less than $86, 380 (excluding the shipping costs), if purchased directly from the manufacturing company, Lexus.
Using the N412/1 dollar exchange rate, each would cost N35,588,560, which implies that the 25 will be purchased for N889,714,000 million.
When confronted with this estimate, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Ibrahim Adra, disputed the figures, saying the cars are not brand new ones.
He, however, kept mum when our reporter showed him pictures of the vehicles with leather coverings in the interior.
Mr Adra later redirected our reporter to the ALGON Chairman, Mr Aminu, who declined comments when contacted.
“Good evening, please kindly direct your inquiries to the appropriate quarters,” Mr Aminu wrote via text.
Several workers who spoke with this newspaper who did not want their names mentioned berated the decision of the state government, accusing it of neglecting the welfare of civil servants.
Two workers in Keana local government area of the state told PREMIUM TIMES that they got only a little above 70 per cent of their salaries last month while the government is still owing them for two months.
“In December (2020) some people received salaries while some of us are yet to get ours,” one of the workers said.
According to him, no one knows whether the fault is from the local government area or the state government.
“Instead of paying salaries, they are buying cars for traditional rulers. In this period? God will judge them,” another worker said.
Also, a lecturer at the Nasarawa State University, said he is still owed two months salary. “They don’t pay salaries regularly,” the don told our correspondent.
Last May, local government workers in Nasarawa embarked on a seven-day warning strike in protest of the inconsistency in salary payment.
Reacting to this, Mr Adra said the governor gave the local government authorities autonomy and cannot answer for the chairmen on salary payment.
Regarding the state of salary payment in Nasarawa State University, the governor’s spokesperson declined comments.
The ALGON chairman also did not respond to enquiries sent by PREMIUM TIMES.
Commenting on the recent development, a civil rights crusader, Obadiah Adei, accused the Governor Sule-led government of “gross unfaithfulness.”
“The recent purchase of SUVs Lexus cars to traditional rulers in NASARAWA STATE by this same man who said there is no money in the state appears worrisome and another explicit proof that Sule is helpless and clueless. On the issue bothering the citizens of the state, a gesture he tagged as EXCEED EXPECTATIONS of NASARAWA STATE citizens , it is NOT only condemnable but insultingly inconsequential, demeaning, devaluing, denigrate and places Nasarawa state with at the disadvantaged.
“This move by the Governor and the lame duck Speaker to defraud the local government workers using their unpaid salaries to campaign for his re-election is facing a stringent disapproval of the majority of the citizens and I hope the governor will realise the plight of the masses and address the issue swiftly.”
Another activist in the state, Jato Ashwe, said the decision of the state government was detrimental to the poor Nasarawa indigenes.
“In the midst of economic hardship, my governor is sharing cars worth millions of naira to the already enriched traditional rulers. It’s high time we stopped impressing the rich class at the detriment of the poor Nasarawa state indigenes, it’s unfair your excellency. This is a misplacement of priority. Voice of posterity!”
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