The Senate has responded to the backlash from Nigerians over the acquisition of 2023 Toyota Landcruiser SUVs for lawmakers at a cost of around N160 million each. The upper chamber said the vehicles were necessary for legislators to perform their functions.
The chairman of the Committee on Senate Services, Sunday Karimi (APC, Kogi), explained the rationale behind the purchase of the luxury cars to journalists at the National Assembly, Abuja. He said the Senate was not being insensitive to the economic situation of Nigerians, and that other arms of government also use similar vehicles.
He advised critics to focus on the activities of ministers and state assembly members instead of attacking the Senate.
According to him, “A minister has more than three land cruisers, Prado and other vehicles and you are not asking them questions, why us? The issue of buying vehicles for National Assembly members, you know is a reoccurring issue. It occurs every assembly, it will always come up.
“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 for them even local government chairmen. I drove the vehicle my local government chairman uses. So, why National Assembly?
“These vehicles that you see, go to Nigerian roads today, If I go home once, my senatorial district, I come back spending a lot on my vehicles because our roads are bad.”
Karimi also said that the Senate chose Toyota Landcruisers over local products because they are more durable and better suited for Nigeria’s bad roads.
The Senate’s decision has been criticized by civil society groups, who say that it is insensitive to the plight of ordinary Nigerians struggling to make ends meet.
Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) said that the purchase of SUVs for federal lawmakers is provocative at a time when most families can barely feed their members three square meals per day, and hospitals and roads are collapsing rapidly across the country.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit in the Federal High Court in Lagos to stop the National Assembly from procuring and taking delivery of exotic and bulletproof cars for members and principal officials pending the hearing and determination of the case.