Recent findings reveal that the National Assembly’s proposed acquisition of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for its legislators, worth N160 million, violates the prescribed package for lawmakers established by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
Controversy Surrounding Vehicle Acquisition
Controversy has surrounded the planned vehicle acquisition, especially given the current economic challenges in Nigeria.
Despite opposition from both the political sphere and concerned citizens, the National Assembly insists that it is purchasing “operational vehicles” for all 469 members.
Violating Revenue Package Guidelines
Federal lawmakers’ preference for expensive luxury SUVs over cheaper Sedan and Salon cars goes against the revenue package set by the RMAFC for them and other public office holders.
The commission is constitutionally mandated to determine the salaries and allowances of public officials, including National Assembly members.
The Nigerian 1999 constitution, in section 84, empowers the RMAFC to prescribe remuneration, salaries, and allowances for public officials.
The constitution explicitly states that these allowances should not exceed the amount determined by the RMAFC.
RMAFC Recommendations for Car Loans
According to the RMAFC’s last publication in 2007, members of the National Assembly are entitled to car loans rather than operational vehicles.
These car loans must not exceed 400% of their annual basic salaries. For instance, a senator with an annual basic salary of N2.02 million can access a car loan of up to N8.1 million, while a member of the House of Representatives with an annual basic salary of N1.9 million can obtain a car loan of up to N7.9 million.
Lawmakers’ Disregard for Recommendations
Despite the economic hardships faced by Nigerians, the 10th National Assembly has chosen to disregard the RMAFC’s recommendations and opt for luxury vehicles for “legislative oversight.” This decision has drawn significant criticism for its perceived insensitivity.
Lawmakers’ Preference for SUVs
Some lawmakers have revealed their preference for Toyota Prado or Toyota Land Cruisers over Saloon cars, citing the need for more robust vehicles for official functions.
This choice has raised concerns about the allocation of public funds for luxury vehicles amid economic challenges.
Criticism for Not Supporting Local Brands
Criticism has arisen from the lawmakers’ decision to opt for foreign brands rather than supporting Nigerian automobile manufacturers, potentially boosting the local industry.
This decision is seen as exporting jobs and not promoting local businesses.
Indigenous Proposal Rejected
An indigenous automobile company, Nord Motors, submitted a proposal to the National Assembly to provide locally made vehicles for lawmakers, but it was reportedly not given due attention.
Lawmakers have consistently opted for foreign brands over locally manufactured vehicles, which has disappointed many stakeholders in the local automobile industry.
Luxury Over Economic Realities
The lawmakers’ preference for luxury vehicles appears incongruous with the economic realities of Nigeria and the calls for reduced governance costs.
Ownership of Vehicles
The spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Akin Rotimi, stated that the vehicles acquired by lawmakers during the 10th assembly (2023-2027) would remain the property of the National Assembly.
At the end of their tenure in 2027, lawmakers may have the option to purchase the vehicles provided they settle their dues with the National Assembly. If not, the vehicles will continue to belong to the National Assembly.
The National Assembly has historically set its allowances far above the guidelines established by the RMFAC, despite clear constitutional provisions to the contrary.
In July, the Senate distributed N2 million to each member as a recess allowance, exceeding the 10% of the annual basic salary prescribed by law.Read More On The Topic On TDPel Media