Sunday, April 14, 2024

Why we’re buying exotic vehicles for members – Senate

BY BRIGHT JACOB

  • Says Nigerian roads are bad

  • Ministers got four official vehicles – Senator Karimi

  • Senate probes N11.35trn spent on rehabilitation of refineries

  • Reps summon Cardoso over removal of forex ban on 43 items

The Senate has justified the purchase of exotic Sports Utility Vehicles for its members.

The Red Chamber was, however, silent on the actual cost of each vehicle but explained that members preferred the imported SUVs to locally manufactured ones.

According to reports, each of the SUVs would cost about N160 million.

Reacting to the development at a news conference on Tuesday, the Chairman of the Committee on Senate Services, Sunday Karimi, noted that Nigerians were picking on lawmakers but ignoring ministers who got about four official vehicles.

Karimi, Senator, Kogi West Senatorial District said, “Somebody that is a minister has more than three Land Cruisers, Prado and other vehicles and you are not asking them questions, why us?

“These vehicles that you see, go to Nigeria roads today, If I go home once, to my senatorial district, I come back spending a lot on my vehicles because our roads are bad.

“I said the decision that we took on using a Land Cruiser is the cost and durability.”

He explained further, “Before they came up with this. It is not the decisions of the senators alone, we analysed arriving at Land Cruisers.

“It was based on a comparative analysis of the cost of technical issues and durability on Nigerian roads.

“We want something that we can maintain for another four years and the issue of buying vehicles from the National Assembly, you know it is a recurring issue, it occurs every assembly, it will always come up.”

The lawmaker further explained that even at the state level, assembly members had access to official vehicles.

Karimi added, “If you got to the 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 drive the vehicle my local government chairman uses, so why the National Assembly?”

Justifying the high cost of the vehicles, Karimi said it was because the National Assembly owed the suppliers about N16 billion.

He said, “I am the chairman of the Senate Service. When I came into the senate, when they gave me their liability, they had a liability of over N16 billion that is made up of different vehicles of the 7th, 8th and 9th Assemblies.

“If you are a businessman and you supply vehicles for somebody in 2014 or 2015 or so and up till now they owe you.

“I am not trying to defend anybody, if you see them selling Land Cruisers in the market, let’s say it is A cost, you don’t expect somebody that will supply it to supply it at the price they are selling it in the market.

“It has to leave a margin and the civil service for supply allowed for 25% margin plus that and VAT and I think that VAT is 7.5. Out of that 25% margin, they will still remove 5% tax from it.

“You are telling someone to supply and he may even not end up making payment for three years and you want him to supply at the price they are selling in the market, it is not possible.”

Earlier, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project asked a Federal High Court in Lagos to stop the lawmakers from taking delivery of the SUVs pending the hearing and determination of the applications for injunction filed by the organisation.

The group’s applications for interim and interlocutory injunction followed reports that members of the House of Representatives were set to procure and take delivery of SUVs valued at N57.6 billion.

Senate probes N11.35trn spent on rehabilitation of refineries

In another development, the Senate has raised an ad hoc committee to investigate all the contracts awarded for the rehabilitation of all state-owned refineries said to have gulped N11.35 trillion in 13 years.

It also mandated the panel to interrogate the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited and the Bureau of Public Enterprises on the best approach to commercialise state-owned refineries.

The Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau (APC, Kano) who presided over the plenary, named Senator Isah Jibrin Echocho as the chairman of the committee.

Other members are chairmen of the Committees on Petroleum Resources (Downstream, Upstream and Gas), Finance, Appropriation, and Public Accounts.

They are expected to submit their report within four weeks.

The resolutions followed a motion by Senator Sunday Karimi (APC, Kogi) during Tuesday’s plenary.

Nigeria’s four refineries in Kaduna, Warri and Port Harcourt had become moribund for years despite the series of repairs executed under various Turn Around Maintenance contracts that had gulped huge amounts.

Karimi, in his motion, expressed concern that the state-owned refineries have been serious drain pipes of public finance, depriving citizens of the joy of being an oil-producing nation.

He said between 2010 and now, Nigeria is estimated to have spent N11.35 trillion, excluding other costs in other currencies which include $592, 976, 050.00, 4, 877, 068.47 Euros and 3, 455, 656.93 Pounds, on the renovation of refineries, yet they are unproductive.

He said despite the moribund state of the four refineries, their operating costs between 2010 and 2020 are estimated at N4.8 trillion.

The refineries are estimated to make a cumulative loss of N1.64 trillion, within four years, he added.

He expressed worry that if a thorough investigation of the past and current rehabilitation projects is not undertaken by the Senate, the circle of awarding unproductive turnaround maintenance contracts may not abate, thereby retaining the status quo where rehabilitation contracts have become conduit pipes for siphoning public funds.

Senators, in their various contributions, said the country could not continue to spend money on an unproductive venture and urged the relevant authorities to ensure that those responsible for the state of the refineries are sanctioned.

Adams Oshiomhole (APC, Edo), said the Senate must ensure proper oversight functions to make sure that Nigerians enjoy value for their tax.

He said, “The amount so far spent on the refineries can build brand new ones. Senators must take the issues with all seriousness it deserves.”

Aliyu Wadada (SDP, Nasarawa) condemned the high level of corruption while Adamu Aliero (PDP, Kebbi) alleged that economic saboteurs deliberately frustrated the government’s effort to make the refineries work so they continue to benefit from fuel importation.

Idiat Adebule (APC, Lagos) wondered why the nation keeps putting money into the rehabilitation of refineries annually when they remain non-functional.

The Deputy Senate President said that had the refineries working, the country would not be experiencing the current economic hardship.

Barau said, “So, it is therefore very important that a thorough investigation should be done to make sure that everything that we need to know is brought open to us.

“Who are those who are sabotaging the efforts of the government? Anybody who has a hand, sabotaging the efforts of the government to bring these refineries into operation and those who have taken money that is meant to turn around these refineries must be brought to book. We must know them and decisive actions must be taken.”

Reps summon Cardoso over removal of forex ban on 43 items

Also, the House of Representatives on Tuesday summoned the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Yemi Cardoso, over lifting the ban on 43 items restricted in 2015 from accessing forex.

The CBN boss is to appear before the House Committees on Banking Regulation and Customs to explain the rationale behind the policy.

The resolution followed the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance moved by Hon Sada Soli (APC, Katsina) at the plenary presided over by the Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas

While moving the motion, Soli said that the bank’s policy would negatively impact local production by exposing the Nigerian market to unfair competition.

He pointed out that the decision would hardly impact the Nigerian economy, and “middlemen” may take undue advantage of the new policy.

While contributing to the motion, Jesse Onuakalusi, a lawmaker who represents the Oshodi/Isolo II federal constituency of Lagos, proposed that the CBN should reverse the policy until legislative action on the matter.

However, the amendment to the motion was rejected when it was put to voice vote by Tajudeen Abbas, speaker of the house.

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