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Falana Flags Misuse: N70 Billion Palliative Payout to Federal Lawmakers Under Fire

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LAGOS, Nigeria – Femi Falana, a human rights activist and senior advocate of Nigeria, has criticized the National Assembly’s plan to disburse N70 billion in palliatives to lawmakers while also allocating N40 billion for the purchase of Sports Utility Vehicles, SUVs, and bulletproof cars for its principal officials and members.

Falana expressed his displeasure in a statement released on Sunday, July 16, 2023, in which he called on the lawmakers to reconsider their plan, especially considering the current economic challenges many Nigerians are grappling with.

In the statement, Falana said, “Out of sheer insensitivity coupled with impunity, the members of the National Assembly, regardless of political affiliation, conspired to breach the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 by padding the Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2023 to provide the so-called palliative of N70 billion for 306 newly elected members.”

Falana pointed out that while the masses of Nigeria are suffering under harsh economic conditions, each newly elected legislators is set to receive N228.7 million.

In addition, the National Assembly has allocated N40 billion to purchase 465 SUVs and bulletproof cars for its principal officials and members.

Falana drew attention to the country’s poverty rate, citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics which indicates that “62.9 per cent of people (133 million) are multidimensionally poor.”

According to Falana, the lawmakers’ decisions contravene Section 70 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which stipulates the appropriate remuneration and allowances for members of the National Assembly.

He referenced recent court judgements that ruled against such excessive allowances.

Falana concluded his statement by urging the leadership and members of the National Assembly to reconsider and reverse their decision on the controversial allowances and the purchase of luxury vehicles.

Amid Economic Woes, 10th National Assembly Set to Spend N40 Billion on Vehicles

As Nigeria grapples with economic challenges, a plan by the Senate and House of Representatives to spend more than N40 billion to purchase vehicles for lawmakers has raised eyebrows.

The sizable fleet will include at least 107 units of the 2023 Toyota Landcruiser model for Senate members, and 358 units of the 2023 Toyota Prado model for the House of Representatives.

This expenditure comes in addition to official vehicles set to be procured for the National Assembly’s four presiding officers: Senate President Godswill Akpabio; House Speaker Tajudeen Abass; Deputy Senate President Jibrin Barau; and Deputy House Speaker Benjamin Kalu.

The Senate Committee on Services, headed by Senator Sunday Karimi of Kogi West, will oversee negotiations and delivery of the vehicles.

The 2023 Land Cruiser’s base model starts at N125 million, with a fully-loaded model reaching up to N135 million.

In 2019, the Senate spent N50 million on each vehicle when the dollar exchange rate was officially N306.

As of Thursday, a dollar exchanged for N770 in both official and parallel markets.

A car dealer told our correspondent that the 2023 model of the Land Cruiser will feature updated adaptive variable suspension for quality rides, four-wheel drive, terrain camera view, and other off-road features.

He added, “All the trims will come with features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 10-speaker audio system, wireless charging, and head-up display.”

In addition, the Senate Committee on Services is expected to manage the purchase of two bulletproof vehicles for Akpabio and two for his deputy, Barau.

A 2023 bulletproof vehicle costs over N300 million, a price that may rise if the current naira regime does not improve.

According to sources, plans are also afoot to upgrade the House of Representatives members to Prado jeeps.

“It is not the House demanding the Prado. It is the management of the National Assembly that is proposing. They don’t want to buy the usual car (Camry),”.

The upgrade is still under proposal and awaits leadership approval.

The House Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs, chairperson, Khadija Bukar Ibrahim, stated, “We are still concerned with committees. The issue of procurement of vehicles has not come up yet.”

On the other hand, the new Senate spokesman, Yemi Adaramodu, stated that lawmakers would repay the funds spent on the vehicles during their term in office.

He also dismissed suggestions that the proposed N70 billion for palliatives would be spent on vehicle purchases, stating, “Lawmakers need these vehicles to do their job. Besides, these are loans, and we’re expected to repay the loans before the end of four years.”

Critics argue that the timing and magnitude of this expenditure send an alarming signal in a period of economic hardship for many Nigerian citizens.

As the debate continues, Nigerians watch closely for decisions that will shape the future of their representative governance.

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