National Assembly: Car purchase palaver and the national grazing reserve bill
The two chambers of the National Assembly explained the rationale behind their decision to purchase brand new Toyota Land Cruiser Jeeps for the 36 Senators and Peugeot 508 Salon Cars for House of Representatives members in the face of the dwindling economic situation. Their explanations came on the heels of the public uproars that trailed the decision especially from the leadership of the Labour unions that has threatened mass protest if not reversed.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Services, Ibrahim Gobir defended the Senate’s decision to pay N36.5 million for each of the Toyota Land Cruisers recently acquired for senators. Mr. Gobir said that the specification of the acquired vehicles were higher than those reported in the media.
According to him, the specification of Land Cruisers was VXR V8 not V6. “The car we bought is Land Cruiser VXR V8, not V6. The showroom price is about N31 million minimum and then when you add 10 per cent tax it becomes 36.5 million.”
He also said that the Senate purchased only 36 vehicles, contrary to media reports that it procured 108 cars.
“These 36 cars, each senator in each state is either a chairman or a vice chairman and we gave one car to each state to share as utility car. So, we don’t have money to buy 108 cars.
“Come to think of it, there is no minister that hasn’t got about three, four cars–one Land Cruiser, maybe a back-up and two Hilux cars. There is no director in the civil service that hasn’t got a car. There is no permanent secretary that hasn’t got a Land Cruiser.”
“In fact, every House of Assembly member has either a Prado or a Land Cruiser and here is a senator you say he cannot have one Land Cruiser,” he added.
In the same vein, the House of Representatives has also concluded plans to take delivery of 360 508 Peugeot cars for its members in the next two months. The lower chamber justified the purchase of the cars on the grounds that they were patronising an indigenous firm.
Speaking on the issue, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, admitted that arrangements to buy the cars had been concluded.
He said: “Peugeot is a local vehicle assembly plant. By patronising them, it is the decision of the House that we will be generating employment and promoting made in Nigeria products. That is the difference. Each unit is N10m, which is, again, far cheaper compared to when we have to import the cars.”
But despite the National Assembly’s justification on the purchase of vehicles many Nigerians are of the opinion that the acquisition of cars for senators is a violation of the monetisation policy of the federal government, which bars government bodies from purchasing vehicles for its officials. The policy instead allows public officers and political office holders to receive 250 per cent of their annual basic salary as motor vehicle loan, which translates to N5.07 million for each senator.
They also questioned the decision of National Assembly considering the fact that the President Muhammadu Buhari on assumption office rejected moves for the purchase of new convoy cars and decided to use the ones used by his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Some have argued that if such purchase must be made as a matter of necessity, why not patronise made-in-Nigeria vehicles being produced by INNOSON Motors Company Nnewi Anambra State that were on display at National Assembly Complex recently in the spirit of the promotion of made-in-Nigeria products. Others have asked: “Why the purchase of such exotic vehicles for oversight assignments when staff of the National Assembly have not consistently received their salaries due to paucity of funds?
Controversial National Grazing Reserve Bill
Buzzing in the media recently, especially the social media is the allegation that there was secret moves in the Senate to pass into law the National Grazing Reserve Bill sponsored by Senator Zaynab Kure from Niger State during the 7th Assembly. The Senate recently doused the tension the allegation is generating by saying that such bill is not with the 8th Senate or being considered by them. But there are still insinuations that the bill was debated in the House of Representatives on March 16 this year and has passed second reading. So there is need for the lower chamber to also clear the air on the issue like the upper chamber.
EFCC arrests INEC officials over N675m election bribes
It was reported that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has within the week found over N675.1m in the bank accounts of different Independent National Electoral Commission officials in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Delta states. According to the anti-graft agency, the money was received and shared by the officials during the last governorship elections. If true, why the anti-graft agency’s concentration on the INEC officials in the South-South States? Does it mean that INEC officials that worked in other zones across the country during the 2015 polls didn’t collect bribes? Many believe that there is need for the anti-graft agency to spread its dragnet across the country in its investigation of the electoral empire officials’ ignoble role in the 2015 polls.
Besides, Nigerians still await the EFCC’s final position on the testimonies of two witnesses, who testified on how N15 million was allegedly paid into the account of the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Yobe State shortly before the April 11 2015 governorship election in the State. It will be recalled that a witness and EFCC official, Odofin Adekule, who testified before the tribunal, also presented the report of the agency’s investigation on the alleged bribery of the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the State during the April 11, governorship election in the state. But since then nothing has been heard of the matter.
Senate’s U-Turn on CCB, CCT act amendment
The Senate members who were recently in marathon and speedy deliberations to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau (CBB) Act, Code of Conduct Tribunal Act, (CCT) and Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) have suddenly suspended the exercise. Though no clear reason was given for the suspension, but many believe it may not be unconnected with the barrage of severe criticisms that trailed the action.
Between Saraki and the CCT chairman
Even with the commencement of his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal after long judicial rigmarole, it is obvious that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s counsel Ralph Oluyede is unrelenting in stopping his client’s ongoing trial.
Oluyede had on Wednesday filed a motion asking the tribunal chairman Mr. Danladi Umar, to disqualify himself on the ground that his client will not get fair trial and Umar is being probed by EFCC. But quickly EFCC gave Umar a clean bill of health. Oluyede’s move to argue the motion on Thursday was rebuffed by Umar and the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacob. The motion was summarily dismissed by the tribunal chairman, who stated that it was of no consequence. Are there any other legal options for Saraki’s counsels to stop the trial other than to continue with the trial and prove his client’s innocence?
Backlash of PDP’s zoning ahead 2019
From inception of the PDP zoning was enshrined in the party’s manifesto, but with the sudden demise of President Umaru Musa Yar Adua in 2010, the party’s zoning principle was sacrificed on the altar of political hypocrisy. Since then, the party was never the same. Following the confessions and disclosures by some of the party’s bigwigs after the 2015 polls in which the party for the first time in 16 years lost the Presidency, it is obvious that the party’s failure to adhere to the zoning principle caused it the coveted seat of power in Aso Rock Villa.
Ahead of the now rescheduled national convention of the party, there are already infightings and battle for the soul of the party in the States and the national level among the party’s major stakeholders, following the zoning proposal presented by Governor Emmanuel Udom-led committee for zoning of the national offices. The committee zoned the position of party national chairman to the Northeast, deputy chairman to the South-South and National Secretary to the Southwest zone. Before now a committee headed by the deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremmadu had zoned the 2019 party’s presidency to the North.
In States controlled by the party, the governors and the party stakeholders are at loggerhead on the choice of party executives during the congresses. With the slight shift in dates of the congresses to give room for reconciliation in the party, will genuine reconciliation ever be achieved, especially now that the party is not in control of the presidency? It would be recalled that such reconciliation or peace moves in the party in the past had always failed. Will there be anything different now that the party is in opposition?
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