By Bukar Bolori
Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has described as insensitive the purchase of Toyota SUVs worth about N130 million each as official vehicles to members of House of Representatives against the background of Nigeria’s perilous fiscal position, insisting that from all indications money was borrowed to buy the exotic cars for the lawmakers.
A statement jointly signed by the NGO Good Governance Manager, Victor Emejuiwe, and Public Finance Management, Sundayson Chidi said the organisation noted “with regret the confirmation by the House of Representatives, that it is taking delivery of Toyota SUVs worth about N130 million each as official vehicles. “
According to the Chairman, House Committee on Media, Akin Rotimi, the vehicles allocated to the Honourable Members was in accordance with extant procurement law and this has been the practice in previous Assemblies.
“He justified the purchase of the vehicle stating that this is not peculiar to the legislature as unelected government officials in the executive, precisely from the level of Director and above have official vehicles attached to their offices.”
The statement said: “Furthermore, the committee chairman asserted that the vehicles which will be allocated to the offices of the honourable members are utility operational vehicles tied to their oversight functions in the discharge of their duties in standing committees; they are not personal vehicles gifted to honourable members.”
The statement added that: “CSJ and indeed all right-thinking Nigerians are extremely troubled about this development against the background of Nigeria’s perilous fiscal position. The 2022 year-to-end budget implementation report confirmed that 96 percent of Nigeria’s revenue was used for debt service, thus implying that only 4 percent was available for personnel, overheads and capital expenditures and this trajectory has worsened in 2023.
“The implication of this is that Nigeria is borrowing to buy these vehicles at a time we are unable to meet foreign exchange obligations to service providers like airline operators and manufacturers who can no longer secure foreign exchange for the purchase of raw materials.”
The CSJ said “Nigerians expected reduction in cost of governance but instead the Honourable Members in an insensitive manner increased the burden on the people. Even if the legislators have to drive SUVs, they could as well have bought same from local manufacturers.
“By their action, the Representatives have not only exported jobs, denied government of personal income tax and corporate income tax of the workers and companies respectively; they have put further pressure on the exchange rate of the Naira which is currently trading at its lowest ebb since independence. By their actions, they have contributed in no small measure to the economic adversity of Nigeria.
“The legislators have failed to realize that it is part of their duty to stop public office holders from abusing public resources, rather they have chosen to justify their SUVs acquisition on the grounds that other officials are acquiring SUVs. If legislators cannot improve the living conditions of Nigerians, they have no right and it is not part of their duty to worsen the living standards of the majority who stayed under the sun and rain to cast their votes for them.
“In the light of the foregoing, we are demanding that these vehicles be returned to wherever they were bought from and the treasury reimbursed,” the CSJ asked.