images-77State governments are spending billions on luxury cars for members of their House of Assemblies, Daily Trust investigations have shown.

This is coming at a time when majority of them cannot pay workers salaries because of cash crunch.

For years now many of the states have failed to even pay the N18,000 national minimum wage claiming they are cash strapped.

However, findings have shown that 978 members in the state legislatures are soaking up about N6 billion per annum in emoluments.

A state legislator receives about N6 million per annum, comprising basic salaries and other perquisites, according to a Daily Trust analysis based on records obtained from the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).

Most of these state governments have purchased brand new Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for their lawmakers even though they still owe salaries and despite collecting bailout from the federal government last year.

Daily Trust findings revealed that the vehicles were mostly 2016 SUV models of Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, Escape Ford, as well as exotic Camry saloon, Hyundai and Peugeot brands.

States that have bought vehicles for their legislators include Kaduna, Niger, Kano, Imo, Sokoto, Jigawa, Kogi, Lagos, Sokoto, Kwara, Benue, Cross Rivers and Katsina.
Most of the states bought cars worth over N20 million each though the RMAFC law earmarked N5.3 million only as vehicle loan for each lawmaker which is paid once in four years.

The cars are bought under the pretext of committee work. In the 34-member Kaduna assembly, for instance, the state bought 34 vehicles for the 34 committee chairmen; each member chairs a committee.

The states seem to follow the pattern of the National Assembly where the two chambers have spent over N7 billion on expensive vehicles.

Daily Trust exclusively reported that the Senate had started taking delivery of 108 Toyota Land Cruiser Sport Utility Vehicles it ordered for its members at the cost of N3.8 billion; and 36 of the vehicles, which cost N36. 5 million each were delivered already.
The House of Representatives has settled for Peugeot 508 as official vehicles for the 360 members at a total cost of N3.6 billion, each costing N10 million.

State lawmakers salaries
Analysis of the RMAFC documents obtained officially through a Freedom of Information Act shows that a state legislator receives an annual basic salary of N1.34 million; accommodation, N802,335; vehicle maintenance, N267,445; and recess allowance, N133,772.

The lawmaker also receives, once in four years, a vehicle loan of N5.3 million, furniture allowance of N2 million and N2.6 million as severance gratuity.

Other yearly emoluments are N334,306 for constituency allowance; N334,306 for domestic staff; N133,772 for utilities; and N66,861 as newspapers allowance.
In addition, the state lawmaker is entitled to N25,000 as duty tour allowance (DTA) per night and $600 estacode while on foreign trips per night.

Unpaid salaries despite bailouts
Despite a massive bailout by the Federal Government last year, Daily Trust investigations in the past week have shown that majority of Nigeria’s 36 states owe workers between one to nine months in unpaid salaries.

The states are spending billions of naira on lawmakers’ vehicles though they are in dire straits as most of them are unable to pay workers and carry out basic functions of government.

A total of N662 billion bailout funds were renegotiated for 27 states in July last year, with 19 states receiving N222 billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in September, 2015.

The CBN approved N338 billion loans to 27 states to pay outstanding salaries at nine percent interest rate over a 20-year-period.
Most of the 23 states that got bail out cash diverted the funds for other purposes.

President Muhammadu Buhari last month said he was concerned by the inability of states to pay salaries promising to arrange for another bailout for them.

Executive bills
Daily Trust investigations revealed that most of the bills passed in the last one year were annual appropriation bills and supplementary budget bills submitted by the state governors.

There are many states whose assemblies did not pass a single individual member’s bill into law within the period.
Niger, Kaduna, Kano, Nasarawa, Osun, Kogi and Plateau lawmakers passed no single member bill in the last one year. Only Katsina and Bauchi lawmakers passed one and four private members bills respectively during the period.
Kogi assembly passed 2 executive bills, Plateau 1, Katsina 8, Nasarawa 5, Osun 7, Bauchi 11, Kaduna 15, and Kano 8.

How the cars were bought
In Kaduna, the state government has purchased 34 Camry 2015 model cars for its 34 lawmakers.

Spokesperson of the state assembly Nuhu Machu Shadalafiya told Daily Trust that the cars were for the 34 committee chairmen in the house.

“There are 34 members and 34 committees in the House of Assembly while we were also given 34 cars. This implies that every member was given a car as a committee chairman and the cars are strictly meant for committee work,” he said.

But the chairman of Kaduna State chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Adamu Ango said the purchase was unacceptable and “insensitive to the plight of the people.”
The Sokoto state House of Assembly has secured N150 million as car loan to its 30 lawmakers, Daily Trust investigation revealed.

The lawmakers got car loans and official vehicles as well from the state government.
“Car loan to lawmakers is constitutional, although the state government will provide official vehicles to each of the members,” one of the lawmakers said.

He said there was provision in the budget for the purchase of vehicles to the House including utility vehicles and that of the lawmakers.

Niger state bought brand new Toyota Land Cruiser Prado jeeps each for its 27 lawmakers.

The state assembly’s chairman of health and medical services committee John Paul Bahago told our reporter that the money would be deducted from their salaries.

Bahago said “We are not the first people to get cars. Each legislature needs to have a car and the governor did not dash us it is just a loan and the money is going to be deducted from our salaries.”
The 30 Jigawa state lawmakers also got brand new Escape Ford SUVs.

Spokesperson of the state assembly, Babangida Usman, said the vehicles were given to the members as official vehicles but they could be auctioned to them at the end of their four- year term.

Lagos State House of Assembly was given N353 million to buy 40 2016 model of Camry for its lawmakers.

This was disclosed in a letter from state’s commissioner for economic planning and budget, Mr Akinyemi Ashade in November last year.

In Kano, the lawmakers were given both official cars as well as car loans, Daily Trust, learnt.

Findings show that N689 million was approved by the state executive council for the purchase of 47 vehicles for the 34 members, five principal officers and speaker and deputy speaker.

The council made the approval on March 16, 2016. Daily Trust gathered that the 34 brand new Honda CRV 2016 models were purchased at N425 million, each costing N12.5 million.

Five brand new Toyota Prado VA 2015 model for the five principal officers were bought at N24.8 million each, among others.

The majority leader of the House, Alhaji Yusuf Abdullahi Ata, said the purchase of the vehicles was in line with the provision of the laws.

The Imo legislators had received their first batch of their vehicles out of the 27 bought for them by the state government.
The spokesperson of the state assembly Mr. Ilochonwu Bennett told Daily Trust that the legislators had received first batch of six Prado jeeps so far out of 27 vehicles expected.

In Kwara, majority leader of the House Hassan Oyeleke confirmed that all the lawmakers had collected the brand new Hyundai cars, which money would be deducted from their salaries till the expiration of their tenure.

In Katsina, a lawmaker confided in our reporter that the former leadership of the assembly processed the purchase of the cars now used by the current legislators.

All the 34 members are using a Peugeot Sport Utility 4008 model vehicles. The official convoy of the speaker was also purchased by the previous leadership for the usage of the new ones.

He said “we came in and the new cars are already on ground, it has been the tradition of the house.”

In Abia, the state government did not officially present official vehicles to its 24 lawmakers. But findings revealed that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu secretly presented Toyota Prado SUVs to the lawmakers.

Chief press secretary to the governor, Mr Godwin Adindu declined comment on the purchase of official cars for the lawmakers.

In Kogi, Daily Trust learnt that the immediate past Governor Idris Wada, doled out Toyota Prado jeeps to the 25 members of the state House of Assembly.

In Benue, Prado jeeps were bought for the 30 legislators by the executive shortly after they were sworn into office.

The spokesperson of the assembly speaker, Bem Abunde, said he did not know if the vehicles were collected on loans or not. In Cross River, the spokesperson of state assembly, Nelson Ofem, confirmed that each of the 25 lawmakers had got Hilux each as official vehicle for oversight.

In Plateau, the 24 members of the assembly were given 2016 model of Toyota Camry last year.

Spokesperson of the assembly Mohammed Balo Abubakar confirmed that each member got the car, through monetization policy.

http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/general/states-spend-billions-on-legislators-cars/148121.html