Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abass have been accused of conspiring and inflating the contract sum for each vehicle to be bought for senators and members of the House of Representatives.
Sources also told SaharaReporters that apart from the posh SUV for each federal lawmaker, Akpabio and Abass also budgeted billions of naira to buy bulletproof vehicles Toyota Hilux pickup trucks to have convoys stations in Uyo, Abuja and Lagos for the former and Kaduna, Lagos and Abuja for the latter.
According to sources, Senator Sunday Steve Karimi (Chairman of the Senate Services Committee) and Hon. Abubakar Bichi (Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations) were involved in the inflation of the contract sum for each vehicle for 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives.
“They want to buy a unit of Land Cruiser SUV for senators at a price of about N240 million each and Prado at a price above N150 million each for House of Representatives members.
“Also, the Senate President wants to use over N5 billion of taxpayers’ money to buy bulletproof cars and Hilux vehicles of assorted types to be stationed in Uyo, Abuja and Lagos for his personal use.
“Also, the Speaker of the House of Representatives wants to use over N5 billion of taxpayers’ money for his personal convoys to be stationed in Kaduna, Lagos and Abuja. This is scandalous and unacceptable when Nigerians are suffering,” one of the sources said.
“Let the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives make public the amount they have awarded to their contractor for vehicles for senators and House of Representatives members.
“Also, Nigerians want to know how much the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Reps awarded for the contract for their convoys and vehicles; I mean for both of them,” another source said.
SaharaReporters earlier reported that Akpabio and Abass were also accused of padding the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act with not less than N9 billion each.
Sources told SaharaReporters that the leaders of upper and lower legislative chambers padded the budget for personal and selfish interests.
Other principal officers accused of being involved in the budget padding include the Senate Majority Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central, All Progressives Congress) and the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Solomon Adeola, better known as Yayi (Ogun West, APC).
And for the House of Representatives, others accused of being involved include the House Majority Leader, Julius Ihonvbere who represents Owan Federal Constituency of Edo State (APC) and the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Abubakar Bichi (APC, Kano).
The federal lawmakers along with some of their colleagues were accused of using the amendment of the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act as an opportunity to pad the budget.
Documents obtained by SaharaReporters from sources show how millions of naira were arbitrarily awarded to projects.
These include the supply of tricycles (Keke Napep) to the underprivileged in Oyo, Ogun and Lagos states -N150 million; supply of tricycles (Keke Napep) to the underprivileged in Kogi and Kwara states -N100 million; supply of tricycles (Keke Napep) to the underprivileged in Katsina and Kebbi states – N100 million; supply of 1 unit of Lexus 600 VIP 2023 Model Y – N250 million; supply of 1 unit of Lexus L600 VIP 2023 Model Y – N250 million; supply of 1 unit of Lexus 600 VIP 2023 Model X – N250 million and model T – N250 million.
Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against Akpabio and Abbas over “the unlawful plan to spend N40bn on 465 exotic and bulletproof cars for members and principal officials, and N70bn as ‘palliatives’ for new members.”
The suit comes on the heels of a statement made by Mr Akpabio that the Clerk of the National Assembly had sent “holiday allowances” into the “various bank accounts of senators”.
Some 137 million Nigerians face extreme poverty.
In the suit numbered FHC/L/CS/1606/2023 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Lagos, SERAP is seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel Mr Akpabio and Mr Abbas to review and reduce the N40 billion budgeted to buy 465 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and bulletproof cars for members and principal officials.”
SERAP is also seeking “an order restraining Mr Akpabio and Mr Abbas from demanding or receiving the N40 billion to buy 465 SUVs and bulletproof cars for members and principal officials until an assessment of the socio-economic impact of the spending on the 137 million poor Nigerians is carried out in the public interest.”
SERAP also wants the court to grant “an order of mandamus to direct and compel Mr Akpabio and Mr Abbas to repeal the Supplementary Appropriation Act 2022 to reduce the budget for the National Assembly by N110bn to reflect the current economic realities in the country.”
In the suit, SERAP argues: “Nigerians have a right to honest and faithful performance by their public officials including lawmakers, as public officials owe a fiduciary duty to the general citizenry.
“Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the lawmakers will spend the N110bn, and the travesty, and apparent conflicts of interest and self-dealing by members of the National Assembly would continue.”
“It is a fundamental breach of their fiduciary duties for members of the National Assembly to arbitrarily increase their own budget and to use the budget as a tool to satisfy the lifestyle of lawmakers,” it aso said.
“While N70 billion ‘support allowance’ is budgeted for 306 new lawmakers, only N500 billion worth of palliatives is budgeted for 12 million poor Nigerians. N40 billion is also allocated to buy 465 SUVs and bulletproof cars for members and principal officials,” it noted.
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Blessing Ogwuche, read in part: “The plan to spend N110bn is a fundamental breach of constitutional and international human rights obligations.
“The planned spending of N110bn is a breach of section 57 (4) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 which provides that: ‘All persons in whose hands public funds may be entrusted for whatever purpose should bear in mind that its utilization should be Judicious.’”
“According to reports, no fewer than 107 units of the 2023 model of the Toyota Landcruiser and 358 units of the 2023 model of Toyota Prado would be bought for the use of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively.
It further said, “The planned purchase is different from the official bulletproof vehicles expected to be purchased for the four presiding officers of the National Assembly.
“The proposed spending of N110 billion by members of the National Assembly is apparently on top of the N281 billion already provided for the lawmakers in the 2023 National Assembly budget. The proposed spending is also different from the N30.17 billion budgeted for the ‘inauguration expenses’ for new members.
“The budget for the National Assembly may further be increased as members are reportedly demanding an upward review of their salaries and allowances purportedly to offset the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy.
“Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] provides that, ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.