By Emmanuel Aziken, Henry Umoru, Dapo Akinrefon, Gbenga Oke, Joseph Erunke, Omeiza Ajayi & Dirisu Yakubu
Outpouring of condemnation yesterday trailed the Senate’s admission that it authorised the purchase of a single vehicle worth N370 million in the midst of the economic recession in the country.
Some of Nigeria’s leading opinion and civil society activists flayed the Senate’s decision as insensitive, parochial, selfish, self-serving and out of touch with the reality in the country.
Controversy emerged recently when it was disclosed that the furore flowing from the Senate’s order on the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hammed Ali (retd.) to appear before it in uniform, arose from the confiscation of a tinted Range Rover purchased at N298 million, with underpaid duties of N70 million.
The Senate had denied any link with the alleged malfeasance, a fact that was confirmed by the dealer who denied any link between the Senate and the alleged underpayment of customs duties.
However, the admission that the Senate ordered the vehicle worth estimated at N370 million, duties inclusive, has, however, put Nigerians on edge.
Yesterday evening, Senate spokesman, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, said the vehicle was purchased at $298,000.
While cautioning Nigerians against overheating the polity, he urged the media to avoid sensationalism.
“The Senate is a responsible institution and those who believe that when they have issues to explain before it, the next thing to do is to resort to falsehood, blackmail, muck-raking and mud-slinging, should know that they are just overheating the polity and undermining our democratic institution.”
His assertions nonetheless, Nigerians across the country poured condemnation on the Senate’s perceived lack of discretion.
It is very unfortunate —Mohammed
Speaking on the issue, Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, described the development as unfortunate, especially given the government’s claims of fighting corruption.
“Without any fear of contradiction, the Senate cannot justify the N370 million on a vehicle. They should know that this is the highest level of insensitivity and they should realise that the National Assembly should not be caught in such an act.”
“For a government that came into power with a mantra of change and fighting corruption, this is scandalous.’’
It’s a pity — Babatope
In his reaction, former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said it was unfortunate that the National Assembly was insensitive to the plight of Nigerians by engaging in importation of a vehicle worth 370million.
He said: “It is a pity that we are in a country of anything goes and I must say such developments are very unfortunate. This country is in trouble with the way things are going”.
Public officials have insensitive spending pattern—Afenifere
On its part, pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said public officials had an insensitive spending pattern.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, said: “Our public officials have an insensitive spending pattern that mocks the poverty of the people. There can be no justification for such spending but it is regular in all arms of government.”
Ibrahim Auwal, (Rafsanjani) – Executive Director, Civil Society Advocacy and Legislative Centre, CISLAC
‘’I think the decision of the National Assembly is sad at this time and age and it shows lack of sensitivity of the plight of Nigerians, especially of the ongoing financial crisis that people are going through.
‘’It would have been better for the National Assembly to do things that would show them to be sensitive to the plight of Nigerians. It would be better for the National Assembly not to do things that show them as people who do not care about the ordinary people.’’
Elder statesman and former spokesperson of the Arewa Consultative Forum ACF, Elder Anthony Sani, also condemned the purchase of the N370 million vehicle.
“Let our senators partake in the sacrifices needed to exit the recession rather than live on the cutting edge while other Nigerians are on the knife edge of survival. Life by examples is more effective than by mere exhortations and declaration”, he stated.
“When Nigerians read about the importation of a jeep by the senate at N370m, they began to wonder if our leaders are ever ready to forego part of their today’s comfort in order to exit the recession for common good.
“Nigerians wonder so because the senators have already given themselves car loans to help ease their work and are given car allowances to maintain the cars purchased with the loans. So, what is the use of the imported vehicle amid cars purchased with the loans by the individual senators?
Comrade Isa Tijjani, ex-National Vice Chairman, NLC
‘’Economic recession or not, I do not think there is any justification for such a colossal expenditure. Sometimes, such things occur because the accountability and checks and balances in a presidential system of government are weak. The independence of the three arms of government makes it difficult for credible accountability and this is what they are taking advantage of. I condemn the purchase of that vehicle.
Barrister Abdulrahman Abubakar, litigation counsel/tax consultant
Hell no! We can’t accept this especially at this time of economic recession. It is quite unfortunate that we are so cursed with a generation of old men who are in a hurry to bury their children instead of the other way round. Our lawmakers have practically abandoned their constitutional roles for mundane gratifications.
Joseph Akande Olurunfemi, lecturer, Accounting dept, UNIJOS
Nothing justifies such frivolity at this time of economic woes.