Senators have defended their decision to purchase 360 imported sports utility vehicles (SUVs) for themselves. They cited the durability and ability of the SUVs to withstand the poor road conditions in Nigeria as the reason for their choice.
The cost of each vehicle was not disclosed, but it was stated that the members preferred the imported ones over locally produced ones.
However, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has applied for an interim and interlocutory injunction at the Federal High Court Lagos to stop the lawmakers from taking delivery of the SUVs. This is pending the hearing and determination of the applications for an injunction filed by the organization.
This follows reports that the House of Representatives lawmakers are set to procure and take delivery of SUVs valued at N57.6 billion. According to reports, each SUV would cost taxpayers at least N160 million.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Sunday Karimi, Chairman of the Committee on Senate Services, defended the purchase of the SUVs in light of the criticism. He explained that the decision to purchase the SUVs was based on a comparative analysis of the cost of technical issues and durability on Nigerian roads.
He argued that the SUVs were chosen because they could be maintained for another four years.
Karimi also criticized the noise surrounding the purchase of the SUVs, saying that ministers who ride about four official vehicles are not criticized, only the Senate. He pointed out that governors, local government chairmen, and other officials also purchase vehicles before inauguration. He wondered why only the National Assembly was criticized for buying vehicles.
“These vehicles that you see go to Nigeria roads today. If I go home to my senatorial district, I return to spending a lot on my vehicles because our roads are bad. Am I talking to somebody? I said our decision on using a land cruiser is the cost and durability.
“Before they came up with this. It is not the senators’ decisions alone; we analyzed arriving at land cruisers. It was based on a comparative analysis of the cost of technical issues and durability on Nigerian roads. Are you getting me? We want something that we can maintain for another four years, and the issue of buying vehicles from the national assembly, you know, is a reoccurring issue; it occurs every assembly, it will always come up”, he added.
He argued that the Ministers who ride about four official vehicles are noisy and criticized them, only the Senate. “If you got to state houses of assembly today, check out, most of them before they were even inaugurated, the governor would have bought vehicles waiting for them, even local government chairmen. I drove the vehicle my local government chairman uses, so why National Assembly?”, he queried.
Karimi justified the high cost of the vehicles, citing the National Assembly’s debt of about N16bn owed to suppliers for vehicles supplied in previous assemblies. He explained that the SUVs cost was high because the suppliers had to leave a margin due to the National Assembly’s non-payment of debts for several years.