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NASS SUVs – Whatever happened to frugality and humanity?

The biggest threat to sustaining democracy in West Africa isn’t really errant young military officers who temporarily seize power. It’s the unabated poor governance by…

The biggest threat to sustaining democracy in West Africa isn’t really errant young military officers who temporarily seize power. It’s the unabated poor governance by democratically elected leaders. History teaches that the manner in which a leader emerges is far less important to his people than actions he takes in office.

Truthfully, many unelected leaders have governed better than elected ones! Good leadership traits include correctly identifying priorities and taking care of necessities while exhibiting frugality and humanity. With these traits so evidently lacking in Nigerian governance, citizens are understandably skeptical about the ability of their opaque and untrustworthy electoral processes to install good leadership. After elections, the electorate continuously finds itself worse off as victims of ill-considered policies by those who “won”.

The decision by the National Assembly (NASS) to purchase 2023 models of Toyota Prado for “Honourable” senators and Toyota Land Cruiser for House of Representatives members at a cost of approximately N75 billion can best be described as an outrageous, arrogant display of insensitivity. Coupled with the excruciating pains citizens are suffering as the nation slides inexorably towards economic ruination, it’s simply another example of why citizens are developing a growing disdain for democracy.

Out of the approximately 200 million Nigerians, only NASS members believe it is a priority for the nation to purchase new luxury SUVs. Rather than cutting down its operating costs, the government is borrowing another $1.5 billion from the World Bank! In a country with an abysmally low electricity supply, underfunded, ill-equipped government schools, abominable government hospitals and an atrociously collapsed road network, borrowing money to buy luxury SUVs for political officeholders cannot in any clear conscience be considered a priority.  Indeed, it is simply a slap to the face of the electorate.

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Truthfully, NASS has become an unjustifiable drain on the economy, by annually increasing its costs while decreasing its contribution to national development!  The current NASS should not be expected to display patriotism by declining and being more prudent in money management because rewarding legislators with brand-new “carry-go” SUVs has been standard practice in NASS. To nobody’s surprise, they have made it abundantly clear that it’s now their turn to enforce their self-granted “right” to do as they please, and that caring about the nation’s priorities takes second place to satisfying their selfish interests.

Although the SUVs are supposedly “utility vehicles for oversight functions” not personal vehicles gifted to honourable members, the truth is that most of the brand-new equipment and luxury vehicles used by legislators become their personal property after their tenure. At the end of each Assembly, legislators leave with Toyota SUVs together with office TV sets, computers, photocopiers and refrigerators all bought brand new four years previously, but “sold” to them at ridiculous give-away prices!

The overwhelming majority of the 200 million Nigerians who are not legislators would gladly receive a legislator’s salary without an SUV and carry out both representation and oversight functions to a far higher standard than is currently the case!  The truth is that NASS oversight functions have become a monumental waste of time and money, having woefully failed to stop the nation from being littered with abandoned, dilapidated or alarmingly depreciating projects.

Critics pointedly ask NASS members how giving them luxury SUVs will assist in repairing the well-documented totally collapsed road networks within their constituencies? The Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), amongst others, has quite correctly pointed out that it is provocative to share luxury vehicles to legislators at a time of increasing poverty, hardship and infrastructural decline. A cardinal principle of good governance is frugality.  The SUV purchase costing approximately N75 billion negates the moral right of NASS to demand frugality by the Executive arm of government.

With the expanded Federal Executive Council and a plethora of appointed aides and advisers, Nigeria at its lowest financial ebb now operates the largest and most expensive government in its history! Frugality should have restrained NASS from purchasing luxury vehicles considering the nation’s atrocious road network. If at all necessary, fewer much cheaper and more rugged vehicles should have been purchased. It is common knowledge that luxury model SUVs were required because they will mostly be used to drive around Abuja and attend the various social functions of political bigwigs nationwide, rather than actually going to any off-road rural area for oversight functions.

Unfortunately for the minister of Budget and Planning, his lamentations over the nation being broke because of a severe revenue shortfall evoke little sympathy. It’s obvious to everyone that in spite of the alleged paucity of funds, members of the Legislature and Executive have no problem finding money for their personal comfort and unnecessary travel agenda. Apparently, the nation is only broke when it comes to coping with responsibilities relating to citizen’s welfare!

The purchase of SUVs for NASS despite it being neither a priority nor necessity is a condemnable exhibition of frivolity instead of frugality. It has exposed a lack of humanity. All human beings are supposed to share a common bond of humanity. It is the soul of our existence. Inhuman actions are not only those that cause loss of life. It is inhuman to lack compassion, to consciously inflict pain, to only consider personal interests and be totally inconsiderate towards others, and to spurn love, kindness and empathy. Nigerians have every right to ask NASS members and indeed other political officeholders; “whatever happened to your humanity?”

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