- Category: Politics
- Published on Saturday, 07 November 2009 06:09
- Written by Admin
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Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Dimeji Bankole and his deputy, Honourable Usman Bayero Nafada, are said to have acquired nine bullet-proof cars each for their official use and in preparation for 2011 governorship elections in their respective states.
Bankole is from Ogun State while Nafada is from Gombe. Their governors are respectively serving second terms and their seats will be vacant in 2011.
The Speaker had, on many occassions, denied eyeing the governorship seat, but sources in his state have continued to link him with a possible shot at the Ogun Government House.
The multi-million naira vehicles are now in Abuja, while the presiding officers sometimes put some of the cars in their official fleet. Sources confirmed in Abuja that each of the vehicles was acquired for between N50 and N85 million and that the deputy speaker, most of the times, acted as a catalyst for the acquisition.
It was also gathered in Abuja that the cars are mostly parked at a rented apartment being used as a Guest House by the Speaker. Information, available to the Saturday Tribune, indicates that the speaker acquired the first bullet-proof car shortly after he resumed office in November, 2007, adding that the car was in his fleet during his first official trip to Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
It was gathered that because of the sensitive nature of the cars, the National Assembly had, through the outgoing Clerk of the National Assembly (CNA), Alhaji Nasiru Arab, requested for End Users Certificate (EUC) from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to ensure the clearance of the first bullet-proof car acquired for the Speaker.
It is not clear whether those acquired after that were also granted the required EUC. A source said that some of the cars in the fleet of the speaker and his deputy included two Range Rover Sport cars each; Two Mercedes Benz bullet-proof cars and two Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps each.
It was gathered that three of such cars each are also being cleared for the use of the officers. A source said: “There is a lot of secrecy about the location of many of the cars, but there is nothing to hide about the ambition of these two presiding officers. Initially, they were said to be seeking a return to the National Assembly to retain their seats so as to help the president in his second term bid, but the conclusions have been reached now with the lavish acquisition of bullet-proof cars.”
There are also issues with the pricing of the cars, which sources said, are on the high side. It was gathered that costs of new vehicles are not supposed to be more than N15 million higher than the regular ones, but that most of the ones purchased by the legislators have been bought at exorbitant prices.
There were also allegations, during the week, that the House of Representatives was short of cash, prompting some unusual borrowings.
But the spokesman of the House, Honourable Eseme Eyiboh, told the Saturday Tribune that the allegations against the speaker and his deputy as well as the allegations that the House was lacking fund were unfounded.
Eyiboh denied knowledge of the importation of 18 bullet-proof Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) by the presiding officers of the House for the 2011 general elections.
He also rejected speculations that the House has overshot its budget, prompting it to engage in borrowing to meet up its expenditure. Eyiboh, Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, who spoke with Saturday Tribune in Abuja, said that it was not possible for either the Speaker or his deputy to import such vehicles as there was no budgetary allocation for them.
Sources at the Office of the Speaker are insisting that the vehicles in question were those that had earlier generated controversy following the decision of the National Assembly management to replace the vehicles in the convoys of the principal officers of the House earlier in the year.
The sources noted that the vehicles, which were ordered at the time, were only just being delivered and argued that they were certainly not as many as 18 that had been rumoured, maintaining that they had nothing to do with the 2011 ambitions of the officers.
According to sources, which spoke with Saturday Tribune in confidence, the purchase of the vehicles followed a presentation by security details attached to the Speaker, who have strongly recommended the replacement of fleet of vehicles because they had gone out of shape.
“The particular incident, which prompted that recommendation, was when the flag-bearing car of the Deputy Speaker had to be towed from Gombe to Aso Rock Villa for repairs after it broke down,” the sources disclosed.
Speaking on the allegation, Mr. Hameed Bello, Special Adviser on Media to the Deputy Speaker, dismissed the existence of the bullet-proof vehicles for the principal officers as he observed the speculation was the handiwork of mischievous politicians.
“The onus is on those who are saying it to prove the allegations. We have to be careful what we do because this is the era of politics,” he told Saturday Tribune.
However, he remarked that if individual members were to buy vehicles that were personal to them, it was not the business of the House of Representatives.