The Senate has justified the purchase of 360 Sports Utility Vehicles for its members.
The Red Chamber was, however, silent on the actual cost of each vehicle but explained that members preferred the imported SUVs to locally manufactured ones.
Earlier, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project asked a Federal High Court in Lagos to stop the lawmakers from taking delivery of the SUVs pending the hearing and determination of the applications for injunction filed by the organisation.
The group’s applications for interim and interlocutory injunction followed reports that members of the House of Representatives are set to procure and take delivery of SUVs valued at N57.6 billion. According to reports, each of the SUVs would cost about N160 million.
Reacting to the development at a news conference on Tuesday, the Chairman of the Committee on Senate Services, Sunday Karimi, noted that Nigerians were picking on lawmakers but ignoring ministers who got about four official vehicles.
Karimi said, “Somebody that is a minister has more than three Land Cruisers, Prado and other vehicles and you are not asking them questions, why us?
“These vehicles that you see, go to Nigeria roads today, If I go home once, my senatorial district, I come back spending a lot on my vehicles because our roads are bad.
“I said the decision that we took on using Land Cruiser is the cost and durability.”
He explained further, “Before they came up with this. It is not the decisions of the senators alone, we analysed arriving at Land Cruisers.
“It was based on a comparative analysis of the cost of technical issues and durability on Nigerian roads.
” We want something that we can maintain for another four years and the issue of buying vehicles from the National Assembly, you know it is a recurring issue, it occurs every assembly, it will always come up. “
The lawmaker further explained that even at the state level, assembly members had access to official vehicles.
Karimi added, “If you got to state Houses of Assembly today, check out, most of them before they were even inaugurated, the governor would have bought vehicles waiting for them even local government chairmen.
“I drove the vehicle my local government chairman uses, so why the National Assembly?”
Justifying the high cost of the vehicles, Karimi said it was because the National Assembly owed the suppliers about N16bn.
He said, “I am the chairman of, the senate service. When I came into the senate, when they gave me their liability, they had a liability of over N16 billion that is made up of different vehicles of the 7th, 8th and 9th Assemblies.
“If you are a businessman and you supply vehicles for somebody in 2014 or 2015 or so and up till now they owed you.
“I am not trying to defend anybody, if you see them selling Land Cruisers in the market let’s say it is A cost, you don’t expect somebody that will supply it to supply it at the price they are selling it in the market.
“It has to leave a margin and the civil service for supply allowed for 25% margin plus that and VAT and I think that VAT is 7.5. Out of that 25% margin, they will still remove 5% tax from it.
“You are telling someone to supply and he may even not end up making payment for three years and you want him to supply at the price they are selling in the market, it is not possible.”