Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Criticisms following the planned purchase of multi-million Naira Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) by the federal lawmakers as official cars may be forcing the National Assembly to consider patronising local auto manufacturers to reduce the costs, The UNION reports.
The Special Adviser to the Senate President on Special Duties and Intra-Parliamentary affairs, Hon. Moshood Mustapha, who dropped the hint on Thursday during an interview in Abuja with journalists, also explained that the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, was forced to change his official car recently because the one he inherited from his predecessor was bad.
Mustapha, who was a member of the House of Representatives in the 7th National Assembly, further hinted that the Senate President is determined to encourage local automobile manufacturers, and see whether the National Assembly could patronise them to reduce costs of procuring the project vehicles from foreign countries.
He also said that Saraki was particularly passionate about the passage of the amendments to the procurement Act to ensure that government patronises local manufacturers.
“He (Saraki) had met with local automobile assembly plant owners. This is a man that believes that we should look inwards and save Nigeria of foreign exchange to boost the power of the Naira,” he said.
He described as unnecessary recent public outcry over the reported purchase of some vehicles by the National Assembly for security operatives in the convoy of principal officers of both chambers of the National Assembly.
According to him, critics of the project vehicles were not being fair to the federal parliamentarians, arguing that nobody was raising eyebrows when the political office holders in the executive arm of government were allocated at least two vehicles each.
He said that Saraki had been using his personal cars since he was inaugurated as the Senate President, and cited instances when some of the vehicles he inherited in the convoy of his predecessor developed serious mechanical faults.
He said the car transaction was purely between the National Assembly management and the beneficiaries of the vehicles who are not even lawmakers.
Mustapha said that Saraki is entitled to two vehicles, but that only one was replaced in his convoy, adding that he (Saraki) took that decision on his own because of the economic situation of the country, to minimise government expenses.
“He (Saraki) decided to be using the old official car as the spare car. He just changed a single vehicle in line with the position of president of the country, who said we should try as much as possible to reduce costs of governance.
“He did this despite having witnessed embarrassing situations. We went to the National mosque one of the vehicles attached to the senate president could not start and we have to abandon the vehicle there.
“We went to Nasarawa, getting there, the vehicle of the whole senate president drove in, could not come back with us. So changing just a single vehicle in his convoy should not be an issue at all.
“The Senate President was at a time the Vice Chairman of a bank; hence, in his private capacity, he could afford the best automobile in Nigeria and anywhere in the World.
“Many people, who were bank employees when he was already executive director as at that time, but decided to stay back, are now proud owners of private jets without anybody blinking eyelids, and we are here debating purchase of cars.
“Up till now there are so many of his personal cars that are in his convoy ever before he became Senate President. We should not allow distraction disturb him from concentrating on the job that he had been elected to perform,” he added.
Mustapha said the Senate President saved the country a N5 billion when he rejected the N6 billion put in the budget of the FCT to build his official residence and reduced it to N1 billion just to exhibit prudence.
“Left to other people, they would have allowed it to go. To him, as an individual, he doesn’t believe in that project. But because a lot of money had gone into it, he believed that having N6 billion in his official residence, is a waste and decided on his own to take away N5 billion from this project and put only N1 billion.
“So, what is the N200 million used to buy vehicles for security personnel and protocol compared to the N5 billion he had saved the nation? I wonder why people are talking as if the vehicles are his personal property or for his children,” he said.
He also said that no form of bribery took place at the Upper Chamber during the screening of the ministers, contrary to insinuations in certain quarters.
He further posited that no form of corrupt practice took place during the recently concluded budget defence by Federal Government agencies.
“Bukola Saraki had created the most democratised, participatory and rigorous budgeting process as we have all seen, this is perhaps the most disciplined senate since 1999.
“We have ministerial screening and budget approval process without bribery and other forms of corruption. It is a scandal free budget process. Nobody has ever said anybody brought money or anything.
“Everybody has been busy doing his work and it was through this painstaking process that we were able to discover errors in the budget, and even the president himself had said it that there are errors and that he would hold the culprits responsible,” he said.
He added that the 8th National Assembly was set to ensure the passing of the lingering Petroleum Industry Bill and that the President of the Senate was working behind the scene to ensure that the PIB passed into law.