By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
The Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, yesterday said the criticism against the 9th National Assembly over its plan to purchase Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) for each of the 469 federal lawmakers at a total cost of N5.5billion is nonsensical and baseless.
Justifying the move in an interview with journalists in his office, the Senate Leader said it is demeaning for public commentators to criticise and kick against the proposal.
According to him, there is nothing for anybody to cry over as far as the plan is concerned, arguing that a serving Senator and their counterparts in the House of Representatives deserve to have an official vehicles, be it jeep or not.
He said “To say that a senator of the Federal Republic cannot ride a jeep in Nigeria is an insult. The N5.5 billion is from the National Assembly fund and not money being sought from any other source. Besides, the scheme as it has always been with previous assemblies is a monetised one, requiring each of the lawmakers to pay back the cost of whatever vehicle given to them.
“The outcry over it is very unnecessary and insulting to the Institution of the National Assembly and status of the federal lawmakers. When I was a Permanent Secretary, I know what ministers get; we cannot even compare ourselves with ministers because we are higher than the ministers.
“Go and tell the people that the work that we do is more than the work of ministers and as representatives of the people, money we spend on daily basis to all forms of indigent people far outweighs whatever the Ministers or executive officers spend.
He added that both Chambers of the National Assembly are ready at anytime to engage any group of people in the polity on its operations and spending, in line with the principles of accountability and transparency for which he said the 9th National Assembly stands.
“Each of the Ministers move in convoy of three to four Utility Vehicles without anybody raising any eyebrow, while some people who either as a result of ignorance or mischief, always cry to high heavens anytime management of the National Assembly wants to buy just one Utility vehicle for lawmakers on the template of monetisation”, he lamented.
He however commended the executive for rolling out the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), the basis upon which the 2020 budget proposals will be presented next month by President Muhammadu Buhari.
This, he said will be a prelude to moving the budgetary cycle from May/June as it is presently to January/December every year.