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Rights group, others sue Reps over N5b vote for vehicles

Lagos-based rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 192 concerned Nigerians have opposed the move by the leadership of the House of Representatives to expend N5.04 billion on 400 exotic cars for its principal officers and members.

To show seriousness, the worried citizens at the weekend filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja.

In the application, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/205/2020, the plaintiffs want the court to “stop the National Assembly Service Commission from releasing any public funds to the House of Representatives to buy 400 Toyota Camry 2020 model cars estimated at $35,130 per car until an impact assessment of the spending on access to public services and goods like education, security, health, and clean water is carried out.”

They also urged the court to “restrain and stop the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, from spending an estimated N5.04 billion to buy 400 exotic cars for principal officers and members.”

The applicants, in the suit, argue that: “Nigerians have a right to honest and faithful performance by their public officials, including lawmakers, as public officials owe a fiduciary duty to the general citizenry.”

They added: “All those who hold the strings of political power and power of overspending of Nigeria’s commonwealth have a duty to answer for their conduct when called upon to do so by Nigerians.”

According to them, “It is illegal and unconstitutional for members of the House of Representatives to choose to buy exotic cars while encouraging Nigerians to tighten their belts and patronise Nigerian brands. It is also illegal for members to reject cheaper and equally reliable options.”

They went on: “If the members of House of Representatives take their duties to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged among us seriously, including their duties to judiciously spend public funds, they would not have voted over $35,000 per car, especially given the current economic and financial realities of Nigeria.

“There is chronic poverty in Nigeria and many state governments are unable to pay salaries of workers and pensions. Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the House of Representatives will spend over N5 billion of public funds to buy the exotic cars at the expense of many Nigerians living in poverty and misery.”

In the suit, the plaintiffs want the court to determine “whether the proposed plan and resolution by the House of Representatives to buy 400 exotic cars for principal officers and members amounting to over N5 billion, is not in breach of Section 57 (4) of the Public Procurement Act 2007, their oath of office, and Paragraph 1 of Code of Conduct for Public Officers (Fifth Schedule Part 1) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended).”

The legal action was filed was on behalf of SERAP and the concerned Nigerians by their lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi.

No date has, however, been fixed for the hearing of the case.

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