In late February 2016, there was mass outrage around the country over the then senate president, Bukola Saraki’s purchase of exotic cars for his official use, brushing aside widespread criticisms against such lavish spending at a time of national economic crisis.
Bukola Saraki had allegedly taken delivery of exotic cars worth N330million, an exorbitantly expensive price.
The cars were reported to be purchased with part of a controversial N4.7billion that the Nigerian legislative body proposed to splash on at least 400 vehicles.
The cars were meant for leaders and members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Among the proposed vehicles were 10 top-of-the-range cars for Saraki and his official convoy.
Obtained tender documents for the 10 cars Saraki requested which revealed that the National Assembly sought to purchase a 2016 model Mercedes Benz S550, four 2016 Toyota Prado jeeps, four 2016 Toyota Hilux SS (Auto) as well as a 2016 model Toyota Hiace Bus.
Premium News did a market survey showing that the vehicles cost N329, 515,625 – more than the budgetary allocations for many government schools for that year.
The outlandish purchase at the time many Nigerians were struggling to make ends meet triggered a firestorm of reactions even from President Muhammadu Buhari and the former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
In a televised interview, Pres. Buhari said he had rejected a proposal for new vehicles to be purchased for him as part of the 2016 budget expenditure.
“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,” the president said during his first media chat.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo also wrote members of the National Assembly asking them to jettison the plan to buy official vehicles.
“Whatever name it is disguised as it is unnecessary and insensitive,” Mr. Obasanjo said.
“A pool of a few cars for each Chamber will suffice for any Committee Chairman or members for any specific duty. The waste that has gone into cars, furniture, housing renovation in the past was mind-boggling and these were veritable sources of waste and corruption. That was why they were abolished. Bringing them back is inimical to the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.”
The National Assembly management ignored the concerns and outcry of Nigerians and went ahead to finalise the procurement of the cars and indeed took delivery of them.
It was reported that the vehicles were a “matter of priority” as “the current cars are old and already developing faults” so a need for change.
Meanwhile, reports showed that the procurement process for the purchase of vehicles for the senate president was already concluded since December and he had put the vehicles to use.
In a statement by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki explained why his office took delivery of the cars.
The statement reads, “Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has said only his official vehicle, a Mercedez Benz, was changed and that the spare car in the convoy is the old one he inherited and has been using since he assumed office June last year.”
According to the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, the Senate President is entitled to a maximum of six vehicles, and not 10 as being bought for him.
He is entitled to two official cars, one pilot car, one protocol/press car, one ambulance, and one security car.
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