Senators and members of the House of Representatives will go home with the operational vehicles of the National Assembly currently in their possession as the 7th Assembly winds down on Friday.
Each of the 109 senators has a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, commonly referred to as ‘jeep’, assigned to them for “operational” purposes like carrying out committee and oversight duties.
The story is the same at the House, where each member has a 2011 model Toyota Camry attached to them for operational duties.
Apart from the operational vehicles, principal officers, including the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, have additional vehicles assigned to them.
The Prado jeeps and Camry are properties of the National Assembly that should have ordinarily been left behind by the departing legislators.
But, The PUNCH gathered on Tuesday that, with the understanding of the management of the legislature, the vehicles have been valued, taking note of the years of depreciation, to allow lawmakers who wish to go home with them to do so by paying 30 per cent of the purchase price.
The money is to be deducted from the severance package of the senators and the House members.
Findings showed that in line with the arrangement, the Prado jeeps, valued at the market price of about N9m, would be given away to senators for around N2.7m.
In the same vein, members of the House will each part with about N1.9m to go home with the Camry, valued at N6.5m.
An official of the National Assembly management, who confirmed the “deal” to The PUNCH in Abuja on Tuesday, said, “The cars have been used for four years, so this valuation has taken cognisance of the years of depreciation.
“The vehicles are not taken away free of charge and as a matter of fact, it is optional. A lawmaker who does not want to go with the vehicle will submit it to the National Assembly and it will be so documented.
“The deduction will be done from their severance package at source, which makes it easier.
“It is a practice that has been on over the years.”
Investigations also showed that, aside the operational vehicles, each of the senators, on resumption in 2011, was given 300 per cent of their total basic salaries as car loans and 300 per cent as housing allowance. About 250 per cent was advanced to them as furniture allowance.
Each of the senators, according to investigations, is receiving N1.8m basic salary monthly while the Senate President’s basic salary per month, is N2m.
One of our correspondents learnt that the car loan, which was about N6.5m per senator and N7m for the senate president, was used to buy a brand new Toyota Camry car each.
The amount, according to a senior member of staff of the National Assembly, was deducted from the basic salaries of the senators within two years.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press, said the arrangement was a departure from the past practice whereby some senators went away with their operational vehicles as parting gifts.
He said, “The loans were obtained for the lawmakers through the banks where their salary accounts are domiciled, hence the bankers usually deduct certain percentage agreed upon from their monthly payments to service the car, housing and furniture loans.”
Attempts to get an official reaction from the Deputy Director of Information at the National Assembly, Mr. Ishaku Dibal, were unsuccessful as calls put through to his mobile telephone did not connect.
However, the Deputy House Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, confirmed that the operational vehicles would be taken away “but certainly not for free.”
Ogor explained that the “normal procedure” was that the vehicles would be evaluated and an agreed sum deducted from the severance package of departing legislators.
“I don’t know what the amount will be; but I know that the cars are not for free. The management of the National Assembly will work it out and communicate to members accordingly”, he stated.
Investigations further revealed that members of the House were also offered the choice of taking home the plasma TV sets in their offices on the condition that they would pay 50 per cent of the purchase price.
The PUNCH learnt that a 40-inch TV set for example, was supplied for a contract sum of N600,000 in 2011. This means a member planning to take it home will pay N300,000 to the management of the legislature.
Another House official however disclosed to The PUNCH that most members of the House turned down the Tv set offer.
“They agreed to take the vehicles but almost all of them rejected the offer of the Tv sets on the grounds that they were too expensive.”