Despite public outcry, the House of Representatives has begun the distribution of the controversial vehicles to its members of the House.
Newslodge has learned that members are receiving the 2022 model of Toyota Landcruiser Prado sports utility vehicles (SUVs) in batches. However, the leadership of the lower house gives priority to female and older legislators in the distribution of vehicles.
Additionally, lawmakers facing uncertainty due to election litigation have been excluded from the exchange pending the outcome of their election litigation in the Court of Appeals.
This newspaper, however, cannot verify the unit cost of the vehicles although it is expected to be between N130 million and N160 million.
A member of the House, Clement Jimbo (APC, Akwa-Ibom), confirmed the distribution of the vehicles to Newslodge in a telephone interview on Sunday.
“They have already started distribution. You know it’s the official vehicle. They started with female legislators and those who do not have litigation (electoral litigation) are treated equally. But if you have pending litigation, you need to clear it up, finalize it, and make sure that it will indeed be here for the next four years,” he said.
Some of the lawmakers whose elections were annulled still have their cases pending in the Court of Appeals. Similarly, some of those who won in court are still being challenged in the appeals court, which is the final court for members of the National Assembly in electoral disputes.
The Speaker of the House, Akin Rotimi (APC, Ekiti), had earlier informed Newslodge that the distribution would not take place until January next year.
The Chamber is made up of 360 members.
Lawmakers face criticism
Members of the House have faced criticism for their decision to purchase luxury vehicles at a time when Nigerians are grappling with difficult economic conditions caused by government policies.
Lawmakers have also been criticized for ignoring the country’s local auto producers to buy foreign-made vehicles.
Many Nigerians believe that patronizing local producers could prop up the value of the Naira, which has been struggling against major currencies in recent months.
Newslodge reported that the purchase of the vehicles by the legislators constitutes a violation of the Constitution.
Section 84 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution gives the RMAFC the mandate to determine the salaries and allowances of public servants, including members of the National Assembly.
“The holders of the offices mentioned in this section shall be paid such remunerations, salaries and allowances as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, but not exceeding the amount determined by the Revenue Mobilization Fiscal and Allocation Commission.” says article 84 of the constitution.