Senators, Reps to spend N40bn on SUVs

Senators, Reps to spend N40bn on SUVs

The Senate and House of Representatives will soon expend over N40 billion to purchase vehicles for lawmakers in the Red and Green Chambers of the National Assembly, Saturday Sun has gathered.

No fewer than 107 units of the 2023 model of the Toyota Landcruiser and 358 units of the 2023 model of Toyota Prado would be procured for the use of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively, the newspaper learnt.

The planned purchase is different from the official vehicles expected to be purchased for the four presiding officers of the National Assembly. These are President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abass; Deputy President of the Senate, Jibrin Barau; and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu.

According to investigations by Saturday Sun, the Senate Committee on Services, saddled with the responsibility of purchasing vehicles for lawmakers, will handle the negotiations and take delivery of them.

Senate President, Akpabio, had, during the week, constituted the Committee on Senate Services, headed by Kogi West senator, Sunday Karimi.

Though the Committee is expected to work with the management of the National Assembly, the purchase is the sole responsibility of the Senate.

A market survey carried out by Saturday Sun showed that the least amount for a 2023 model of Toyota Land Cruiser is N125 million. For the full option of the same brand, it goes for as high as N135 million.

In 2019, the Senate spent N50 million on each vehicle, when the dollar exchanged officially for N306. As at close of business on Thursday, a dollar exchanged for N770 in both official and parallel markets.

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A car dealer who gave a breakdown of the Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), said the 2023 model is the second production year of the current Land Cruiser generation. He said it will come with the updated adaptive variable suspension for quality rides.

The on-road quality will be made smoother than ever. All the trims will come with four-wheel drive, centre locking, terrain camera view, and many other off-road features.

“Features you’ll find in the new model include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 10-speaker audio system, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, 8-way power-adjustable passenger seat, Heated and Ventilated front seats, Quad-zone climate control, Wireless Charging and Head-up display,” the car dealer told our correspondent.

The Senate Committee on Services is also expected to handle the purchase of two bulletproof vehicles for Akpabio and two for his deputy, Barau.

The car dealer put the amount needed to purchase a bulletproof vehicle produced in 2023 at over N300 million. He said the price may go up if the current naira regime doesn’t improve.

Saturday Sun reliably gathered that some members of the House are of the opinion that since senators are using Toyota Landcruiser, it will not be out of place for House of Representatives members to upgrade to Prado jeeps.

In the 9th Assembly, members of the Green chamber used Toyota Camry 2019 as their official cars.

Regardless, a top source in the House confirmed to Saturday Sun that there are plans to upgrade the official vehicle of members of the 10th House. She explained that it is the initiative of the management of the National Assembly.

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According to her, the National Assembly management is proposing that rather than Toyota Camry, members of the lower chamber should be given Toyota Prado as official vehicles , especially as the senators, who got Toyota Landcruiser in the last assembly, might get a bigger car this time.

Nevertheless, she stated  that the leadership of the House had yet to decide on the proposal, stating that until the leadership approves, nothing can be done in that regard.

According to her, “it is not the House that is demanding the Prado. It is the management of National Assembly that is making the proposal. They don’t want to buy the usual car (Camry).

“But the truth is that there is no agreement on it yet. It is still a proposal. It has not scaled through. There no approval yet. Until there is approval by the leadership, we might still revert to normal (Camry).”

However, a member of the House from one of the North Central states, who pleaded anonymity told Saturday Sun that though he is not aware of any demand by lawmakers for Toyota Prado. Regardless, he stated that there is nothing wrong with members of the lower chamber  getting Toyota Prado as their  official vehicles, if it is approved. He pointed out that heads of agencies are even using Toyota Landcruiser.

The lawmaker said: “I have not attended any meeting where members said they want Prado. But most importantly, Prado SUV for a member of the Federal Parliament and Landcruiser for Executive Secretaries (of agencies) and all that; who deserves to have a Prado? I don’t think it is out of the world for a member of parliament, as long as it is used for the official functions, which it is meant for.”

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New Senate spokesman, Yemi Adaramodu, told Saturday Sun on phone that funds spent on the vehicles are expected to be repaid by lawmakers throughout their time in office.

He said as lawmakers, they need vehicles to perform their official duties, especially oversight visits. He dismissed insinuations that the proposed N70 billion for palliatives will be spent on purchase of vehicles.

“Ministers and other appointees of government have their vehicles too. Lawmakers need these vehicles to do their job. Beside, these are loans and we’re expected to repay the loans before the end of four years.”

Efforts to reach the chairman, House Ad-hoc Committee on Welfare, Wale Raji, was not successful, as he did not respond to repeated calls. WhatsApp messages to his mobile phone were also not responded to as at the time of filing this report. The Welfare Committee is saddled with issues relating to the well-being of members.

However, when contacted,  the chairperson, House Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Khadija Bukar Ibrahim, told Saturday Sun that the preoccupation of the House at the moment is the issue of Committees.  “We are still concerned with committees. The issue of procurement of vehicles has not come up yet,” Bukar Ibrahim stated.

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