Nigerian senators have, in the past few days, furtively taken delivery of ownership documents for the latest Toyota Land Cruiser Prado jeeps worth at least N1.2 billion, in a new purchase that has lifted the senate’s renowned lavish automobile spending to a new high.
The deal is said to have been executed by the National Assembly Service Commission, the statutory contract arm of the lawmaking body. It is not certain how much the transaction is worth on paper, but confirmations from Toyota showed the cars sell for $68,920, about N11.027 million per unit.
For 109 senators, the total cost stands at N1.201 billion. The profit margin, according to dealers, should be about $7400 (about N1.2million) each. The total cost is expected to be N1.33billion.
Taken alone, the figure could build a number of standard schools and hospitals, and help initiate key programs that could tackle unemployment and health challenges such as Lassa Fever and polio. Still, more than triple that sum will most likely be incurred by the House of Representatives for the acquisition of exotic cars for its members.
For years, both chambers have allocated huge sums for automobiles and office furnishings, in addition to huge illegal allowances and homes.
In the last legislative session, the senators purchased Toyota Camry at a unit cost of N9 million, while the House members bought Peugeot cars for huge sums for legislators coming already with fleets of cars. The cars are usually sold for pittance to lawmakers at the end of their tenures.
After similar expenditures in the past sparked fierce condemnations from Nigerians, most of whom lived on less than a dollar per day, the lawmakers realised they needed to be extremely careful in the way they acquire and take possession of their new cars.
So the contract deal, wrapped in utmost secrecy in the first place, had to be delivered in stealth, our sources say.
Several batches of 2012 Toyota prado jeeps, jumbled with a large number of imported government transport scheme buses, have in the past days, running into weeks, been delivered through a dealer at Gimbiya Street, Garki, Abuja.
As the consignments arrive in relatively fewer numbers, the lawmakers take delivery of them, while those yet to be served await further shipments. The automobiles are then re-coloured in random shades, both efforts deliberately aimed at minimizing public attention on the cars when used by the lawmakers, the sources said.
On Thursday, when Premium Times visited the company supplying the cars, a few number of cars remained with the buses, while a larger number were sighted at the senate car park later that afternoon.
Officially, senators have refused to comment on the purchase. The spokesperson, Enyinnya Abaribe, did not respond to repeated telephone calls seeking his comments for this story.
But unofficially, the lawmakers have claimed the purchases are meant for committee operations, the same reason cited for acquiring exotic automobiles in the past.
Some government officials however told Premium Times that the acquisition of the cars was a violation of the monetisation policy of the federal government.
Under the policy, no new vehicles should be purchased by any agencies of government for use by officials.
Rather, public officers and political office holders are to receive 350 per cent of their annual basic salary as motor vehicle loan payable in six years at an interest rate of four per cent.
Our sources at the National Assembly said the Senators got these loans before also proceeding to acquire the Prado Jeeps in violation of established regulations.