The Senate came under harsh criticisms by eminent Nigerians on Saturday for defying Nigerians, including President Muhammadu Buhari on the purchase of exotic vehicles.
Eminent Nigerians including the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Senator Femi Okurounmu and Dr. Junaid Mohammed, condemned the Senate for purchasing the vehicles.
The contractor in charge of delivering the vehicles, Lanre Shittu Motors, on Saturday confirmed to Saturday Punch that it had delivered “a lot of vehicles to the Senate.
The newspaper gathered that the Senate had taken delivery of the exotic vehicles and that the deliveries were done from Lagos and Abuja.
The Group Executive Director, Lanre Shittu Motors, Mr. Taiwo Shittu, in an interview with one of our correspondents, stated that a lot of deliveries had been made to the Senate.
We have delivered a lot of vehicles to Senate — Lanre Shittu Motors
When asked to confirm if the Senate had taken delivery of the vehicles from his company, Shittu replied, “Yes, they’ve taken a lot of deliveries but the deliveries are handled from the head office. I’m in charge of commercials like trucks, equipment and buses for the company, but not deliveries that have to do with the cars.
“They are not taking delivery of commercial vehicles but they are taking passenger vehicles, although Toyota Hilux can be seen as a commercial vehicle. I can confirm to you that the Senate has taken delivery of some vehicles but I can’t give you the accurate number presently.”
Many Nigerians, including Buhari and former President Olusegun Obasanjo had a few months ago urged the National Assembly to shelve the plan to buy N330m exotic vehicles.
While advising the Senate, Buhari in his first media chat had said, “I turned down a N400 million bill for cars for the presidency, because the vehicles I am using are good enough for the next 10 years.”
Anger over purchase
In his reaction, prominent Yoruba leader, Okurounmu, on Saturday described the purchase of the vehicles as disgraceful.
Okurounmu, who represented Ogun-Central senatorial district between 1999 and 2003, said the purchase of vehicles at a time when over 20 states could not pay salaries was callous.
He said, “If this is true, the action of the Senate is completely unpatriotic, callous and shows that they don’t care about the welfare of the Nigerians that they are supposed to be representing and they are only there to look after their own interests. They are selfish.
Also speaking, Sagay described the senators as a group of “shameless people” who are unfit to occupy public office.
Sagay said their profligate lifestyle was capable of causing poor Nigerians to revolt against the government.
He said, “It shows that we are dealing with a group of people that are totally incorrigible in their love for material things at the expense of Nigerians. They have no limit and have no sense of shame or restraint. They will go all out and continue to live in luxury and obscenity until they can ground Nigeria
“These people are unfit to hold public office. They are a disgrace to this country and somehow, if it was possible, I would want them to be shamed out of the National Assembly. They are unfit for that position and a disgrace to any civilised community.”
Lending his voice to the controversial acquisition of vehicles, a former Governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa, wondered where the Senate got the funds to purchase the vehicles since the 2016 budget had not yet been passed.
Describing the incident as ‘mindlessness’, the former governor said the matter must be investigated by the relevant authorities.
He said, “Who authorised the purchase of the vehicles? The budget has not yet been approved so where did they get the money to buy the vehicles? Are they using the law which authorises the President to spend the equivalent of what was spent last year to buy the vehicles?
“Besides the mindlessness of such an act in the face of the economic crisis, why should lawmakers use their position to enrich themselves? Has the National Assembly allowed itself to be involved in illegality?”
Saraki’s convoy changed only one vehicle – Aide
But the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, to the Senate President, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said in a statement on Saturday that only one new vehicle had been changed in the convoy of his principal, Bukola Saraki.
Olaniyonu, explained that the new vehicle, a Mercedes Benz, was meant to replace the old spare car in the convoy that he inherited and had been using since he assumed office in June 2015.
He said, “It is an obvious fact that the official and spare cars that the Senate President inherited and has been using are old and have been malfunctioning.
“There are instances like the day Saraki visited Keffi for the marriage of the daughter of Senator Abdullahi Adamu and another day at the Presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport that the spare vehicle broke down.
“In both instances, the spare vehicle did not return home with the convoy. The same vehicle had malfunctioned at the Presidential Villa and National Mosque on different occasions.
“It is for this reason that the Senate President approved that instead of providing two vehicles for him as he is entitled, only one should be bought to replace the official vehicle while the old official car should be converted to spare car.
“Also, if the National Assembly Management chose to provide operational vehicles for security agencies, should that be presented as if they are personal or official vehicles meant for the use of Dr. Saraki?
“These are vehicles that cannot be used for other purposes and by other people. The Senate President also has no control over the security vehicles.”
Repeated calls made to the Senate spokesperson, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, were not responded to and a comprehensive text message sent to him had not been responded to as of the time of sending this report.
Also, the Chairman, Senate Committee on House Service, Ibrahim Gobir, and the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, could not be reached on phone as their lines were switched off.
However, a member of the Senate Committee on House Services, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, said he was not aware of the procurement and distribution of the exotic cars.
He said, “As a member of the Senate Committee on House Services which is in charge of the process of taking delivery and distribution of such vehicles, I can confirm that there is nothing like that.”