10 Biggest Car-Related Political Scandals In Nigeria
Globally, politicians are prone to scandals. These scandals are often generated by acts such as bribery and corruption, electoral fraud, nepotism, cronyism, influence peddling, sexual shenanigans, etc.
These scandals often lead to “loss of or damage to reputation” of the politicians involved.
In Nigeria, it is no different.
Over the years, the country has witnessed an unfair share of political scandals. For instance, we have witnessed hoopla generated by incidences where politicians or government officials acquired automobile under less than acceptable ways, procedures and cost.
In this article, we shed light on that by highlighting 10 of the most celebrated political car-related scandals in Nigeria.
Stella Oduah And The N255million Bullet-Proof BMWs
In 2013, former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, was enmeshed in one of the country’s most celebrated car purchase scandal.
It began when reports emerged that she had compelled the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, an agency under her Ministry, to purchase two BMW cars for the aviation ministry without approval.
Other allegations included how the cars were purchased at a grossly inflated price. The two bullet-proof BMW cars were valued at N255 million.
The purchase drew nationwide controversy and public criticism. Activists like Femi Falana urged EFCC to conduct a thorough investigation with a view to prosecuting the former minister.
However, Ms Oduah maintained her innocence. She claimed there was no basis upon which she could be probed, saying that the vehicles did not belong to her, but that they were for the Federal Government.
She also stated that the procurement was duly provided for in the NCAA budget that year, which also adopted lease payments in instalments over 36 months.
However, the scandal did not end without ridiculing the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
In February 2014, Stella Oduah was relieved of her appointment as Minister of Aviation.
Saraki and his controversial N330 million cars
In late February 2016, there was mass outrage around the country. This happened when it came to public knowledge that former Senate President, Bukola Saraki had allegedly taken delivery of exotic cars worth N330million.
This was at a time that the country was experiencing a major economic recession.
The cars were reported to be purchased with part of a controversial N4.7billion that the Nigerian legislative body proposed to splash on at least 400 vehicles. The cars were meant for leaders and members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Among the proposed vehicles were 10 top-of-the-range cars for Mr Saraki and his official convoy.
The report triggered a firestorm of reaction from Nigerians, including President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who urged the National Assembly to shelve the plan.
In a televised interview, Pres. Buhari said he had rejected a proposal for new vehicles to be purchased for him as part of 2016 budget expenditure.
“I turned down a N400 million bill for cars for the presidency because the vehicles I am using are good enough for the next 10 years,” the president said during his first media chat.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo also wrote members of the National Assembly asking them to jettison the plan to buy official vehicles.
“Whatever name it is disguised as, it is unnecessary and insensitive,” Mr Obasanjo said.
In a statement by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki explained why his office took delivery of the cars.
The statement reads, “Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki has said only his official vehicle, a Mercedez Benz, was changed and that the spare car in the convoy is the old one he inherited and has been using since he assumed office June last year.”
Saraki and his alleged N298m Bulletproof SUV
On March 18, 2017, an online news platform, Sahara Reporters, published a report about the seizure of an armoured Sports Utility Vehicle.
It was alleged that the SUV – a Range Rover Autobiography – belonged to the Senate President at the time, Bukola Saraki.
The seizure of the SUV was credited to the Nigeria Customs Service. This happened after it was intercepted and impounded on January 11, 2017, for allegedly having fake documents.
Saraki, however, denied any link with the seized car.
The N298 million SUV was reported to be rotting away at the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) yard in Ikeja, Lagos, nine months after it was impounded.
It was alleged in the report that the confiscation of the black SUV, with chassis number SALGV3TF3EA190243, was the reason why the Senate was moving against the Controller General of the NCS, Col. Hammed Ali (retd.).
The Special Adviser to the former Senate President on Media and Publicity, Mr Yusuph Olaniyonu, in a statement, stated that the allegation “lacks basis as it was outright falsehood.”
Olaniyonu said from the facts and documents about the seized vehicle, it was obvious that the Senate President had nothing to do with the importation of any vehicle.
He said, “A supplier was engaged by the Senate to supply a vehicle. While transferring the vehicle between Lagos and Abuja, it was impounded by the Customs. We believe that is an issue between the supplier and the Customs because the Senate has not taken delivery. Therefore, why is somebody trying to drag in the name of Saraki into the issue?
“The documents on the vehicle are there for the general public to view and make their conclusions. Now that the matter has been referred to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, all the facts will be out.”
It was gathered that the black SUV, with chassis number SALGV3TF3EA190243, which the Senate claimed it bought at N62.5 million, W on a crane at the entrance of the at the facility of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone A of the Customs in Ikeja.
A Senator accuses IGP of illegally donating two SUVs to the President’s Wife
In October 2017, Isa Misau, a lawmaker representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District, accused the former Inspector General of Police, IGP Idris Ibrahim of donating two Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) to the First Lady, Aisha Buhari.
According to him, the car gift was given under unclear and allegedly illegal circumstances.
Misau, while speaking to a committee investigating his accusations, said the First Lady through her aide-de-camp requested for a Toyota Hiace and a Sienna jeep, but she was given two SUVs instead. He also claimed he had documents to prove that Mrs Buhari requested for vehicles from Idris.
“The most unfortunate thing is that even in the letter, the ADC wrote that they wanted the vehicles for her private engagements. They wrote that they wanted Sienna and Hiace but the IG said they should be given two Sports Utility Vehicles”.
“The same day that the ADC wrote, the IG minuted that she should be given two SUVs”. And it is not part of the appropriation. If you look at the appropriation, there is nowhere they said the First Lady should be given two jeeps,” he said”.
The lawmaker also accused Mr Idris of awarding contracts worth over N2 billion to a Peugeot car dealer to acquire Toyota cars.
“In the papers, the IG submitted to the court, I saw one Kaura Motors. Kaura Motors deals in Peugeot cars but on the same day they were given two contracts: one of them is N1.2 billion, the other one is about N1.5 billion, to supply Toyota vehicles. How can you give a contract to somebody who is a dealer in Peugeot to supply Toyota?” he asked.
Not done yet, Mr Misau reminded the committee of an earlier probe of the activities of the IG by the House of Representatives. According to him, the probe indicted the IG for alleged diversion of funds meant for security vans in the 2016 budget for the security outfits.
However, the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, denied the allegations made by Senator Isa Misau.
In response, the First Lady simply tweeted: “I am still using my personal cars”.
How Saraki And Dogara-led National Assembly spent N6.6billion Adeosun largesse on exotic cars
In April 2018, information surfaced about how former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, illegally approved N10 billion for the National Assembly.
The Minister, in collusion with the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, arbitrarily approved the fund for the lawmakers.
A report indicated that Mrs Adeosun released the billions to the lawmakers despite the N125billion appropriated for the federal legislature in the 2017 fiscal year for recurrent and capital expenditures.
It was later revealed how the leadership of the National Assembly, led by Senate President Bukola Saraki, House Speaker Yakubu Dogara and Clerk Mohammed Sani-Omolori, spent the largess. N6.6billion out of the controversial N10 billion was paid by the National Assembly for the purchase of exotic cars for its members.
Records show that the Senate was the biggest spender in the car acquisition, purchasing a total N3.2billion worth of cars from 10 different contractors. The lower chamber followed closely, acquiring N3billion worth of exotic cars in 17 deals.
The management of the National Assembly was not left out of the car procurement extravaganza. They took delivery of N430million worth of cars using five different dealers.
Reports later revealed that 30 of these contractors are not registered on the Bureau of Public Procurement’s database of federal contractors, indicating they are ineligible to be given jobs or paid any money from the federal treasury. Seven of the 30 are not even registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Femi Gbajamiabila And His Mercedes Benz G-Wagon Gift To His Wife
On May 27 2018, lawmaker Femi Gbajabiamila presented a surprise gift to his wife, Salamatu. It was a brand new Benz G-Wagon.
The SUV was presented to her at an event to commemorate her 50th birthday. The SUV was estimated to cost about N75million.
The news of the car gift trended on social media for days after a photo and a video of the vehicle surfaced online. The car gift became the subject of an intense national public discussion.
Reacting in a statement, Mr Gbajabiamila said he saved for “a couple of years” to buy his wife the luxury vehicle.
He went further to reveal in a statement that the presentation was meant to be a family affair. However, it was delayed and arrived when guests were already around.
His statement partly read, “My attention has been drawn to the extensive reports especially on social media regarding the presentation of a gift to my wife and best friend in celebration of her 50th birthday anniversary.
“Naturally I had anticipated this occasion for quite a while and prepared by saving up for it in the last couple of years. I took the decision far back to present her with a significant gift, she was totally unaware of, to convey in part, the debt of my gratitude to her for standing by me through ‘thick and thin’.
“Having said this, I understand and appreciate the reaction of the public. As a public official, one must be held to a higher standard. My action was not meant to offend sensibilities and I regret that it did.
The 57-year-old Femi Gbajabiamila was the Minority Leader of the House at the time. He is the current Speaker of Nigeria’s 9th House of Representatives.
21 Exotic Automobiles Uncovered In Former Governor Yari’s Home
In August 2019, the EFCC visited the country home of former Governor of Zamfara, Abdul-Aziz Yari. The commission has been on the trail of the governor since 2017. However, they could not investigate him because he enjoyed immunity while in office.
The former governor was being investigated for alleged questionable payment of N19 billion from the London-Paris Club refund; N35 billion spent on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); Ecological and Stabilisation Fund and how he incurred N151,190,477,572.02 liabilities on ongoing projects.
During the operation, they uncovered about 21 exotic vehicles in the home of Yari.
The raid was carried out when he was out of the country to determine how the vehicles were acquired. However, he was later invited for interrogation by the EFCC.
How the 9th Assembly of Nigerian Lawmakers Spent N5.5 Billion On ‘Official Cars’
In August 2019, it came to the public knowledge that the National Assembly has begun moves to procure “operational vehicles”. The vehicles would cost the federal lawmakers N5.5billion. The preferred brand being considered for senators is Toyota Land Cruiser SUV. A public outcry would trail the revelation.
Several activists and concerned citizens championed protest against the resolution.
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The lawmakers maintained that the cars are not for the luxury cravings of individual senators. They stated that they were needed to enhance the operations of committees. The cars are meant specifically for all chairmen and vice-chairmen of Senate committees. But with the Senate now having 69 of such committees, the stage appears set for every member to be appointed as either chairman or vice-chairman.
However, the Senate lampooned those criticising the plan to procure the SUV. They said it was that it is nonsensical and the critics were simply ignorant.
Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, All Progressives Congress, Kebbi North stressed that there was nothing for anybody to cry over.
The Senate Leader said: “To say that a Senator of the Federal Republic cannot ride a jeep in Nigeria is an insult”.
“The N5.5b is from the national Assembly fund and not money being sought from any other source.
“The outcry is very unnecessary and insulting to the Institution of the National Assembly. It is also insulting to the status of the federal lawmakers. “When I was a Permanent Secretary, I know what ministers get. And we cannot even compare ourselves with ministers because we are higher than the ministers”.
“Each of the Ministers moves in a convoy of three to four SUVs without anybody raising an eyebrow. People, either as a result of ignorance or mischief, always cry. To high heavens anytime, the National Assembly wants to buy just one Utility vehicle”, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi ranted.
How former Zamfara Governor lavished N8 billion on exotic cars for his wives
The incumbent Governor, Bello Matawalle, set up the state Projects Verification Committee. The committee was set up to among others, investigate the state of contracts from 2011 to 2019.
In February 2020, it was uncovered how over 1500 vehicles were bought by the former Governor of the state, Abdulaziz Yari, at a total cost of N8 billion.
The committee investigation revealed how the former Governor spent N8 billion to purchase exotic cars. The cars were acquired for his wives, friends, and appointees during his stint as Governor.
The committee said the purchased vehicles represent 66% of the vehicles bought between 2011 to 2019. They have not been accounted for.
There were insinuations that the revelation was due to the frosty relationship between Yari and the incumbent. Abdulaziz Yari is of the All Progressives Congress (APC). His successor, Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle, is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
With a 70.8% poverty rate, Zamfara is ranked among the poorest states in Nigeria (NBS:2020).
How House Of Reps ordered 400 exotic cars, rejects Nigerian brands
In February 2020, there was outrage when it was revealed that the Femi Gbajabiamila-led House of Representatives had resolved to acquire Toyota Camry 2020 model for members as official cars, otherwise called utility vehicles.
The resolution which was reached at an executive (closed-door) session held on February 5, 2020.
At the meeting, the lawmakers were said to have rejected Nigerian brands. Instead, they insisted on foreign ones, preferably imported and not locally assembled.
Giving the breakdown of how the vehicles would be shared, a source said the 400 saloon cars would be allocated to each of the 360 members and some top management staff, Chiefs of Staff to the two presiding officers as well as some of their special advisers and assistants.
Already, about 14 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado Jeeps were said to have already been shared. They were shared to the presiding and principal officers as well as chairmen of select House committees.
Amid the current Coronavirus pandemic, the House of Representatives took delivery of the cars. The lawmaker, however, kept mum on the cost of each car.
The 2019 model of the Toyota Camry cost about N26.75m and N35.75m (for V6 engine). The 2020 model is expected to be costlier.
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