The Senate’s decision to procure 2023 model Toyota Landcruisers for its members at a contracted cost of approximately N160 million each has garnered significant controversy. This acquisition is complemented by the acquisition of bulletproof vehicles for Senate President Godswill Akpabio and his deputy, Barau Jibrin,Daily Trust report.
This move has drawn substantial criticism, with many Nigerians chastising the lawmakers for appearing indifferent to the struggles of the populace amidst soaring living expenses. The Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) has voiced its disapproval, stating that procuring SUVs for federal lawmakers is especially provocative at a time when most families struggle to provide three square meals a day, and essential infrastructure such as hospitals and roads across the nation is rapidly deteriorating.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has gone as far as approaching the Federal High Court in Lagos to halt the National Assembly’s procurement and receipt of luxury bulletproof cars for its members and principal officials until their injunction applications are considered.
However, the Senate, or Red Chamber, as it is commonly known, has defended its decision to purchase these SUVs, arguing that lawmakers require these vehicles for their legislative functions. During a briefing at the National Assembly in Abuja, the chairman of the Committee on Senate Services, Sunday Karimi (APC, Kogi), deemed the criticism unwarranted. He pointed out that other branches of government, such as ministers and state assembly members, also utilize similar vehicles, and he encouraged critics to focus their scrutiny on these groups.
Karimi justified the choice of Toyota Landcruisers over locally produced alternatives, citing a comparative analysis of cost, technical considerations, and the durability required for Nigeria’s often challenging road conditions. He explained that the decision was made with a focus on long-term maintenance, aiming for vehicles that could serve for another four years.
In terms of the cost, Karimi acknowledged that the Senate had accumulated significant liabilities over the years, including vehicles purchased for members of previous assemblies. He argued that suppliers face challenges when dealing with a situation where payments may be delayed for extended periods. In such cases, they cannot be expected to provide vehicles at market prices. Instead, a margin is added to the cost, following the civil service rule for supply, which allows for a 25% margin plus a 7.5% VAT. Even from this margin, a 5% tax is deducted. Karimi emphasized that the Senate’s decision was made considering these practical and financial constraints.