From Fred Itua, Abuja
For the first time since the scandal broke, Senate, yesterday, admitted paying only N62.5 million to purchase a bullet-proof Range Rover Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) for the office of its President.
Senate denied spending N298 millionfor the SUV.
Instead, it said only N62.5 million was spent on the said vehicle and argued that at the time of purchase, the exchange rate was N165 to a dollar.
In a statement by Senate spokesman, Abdullahi Sabi, the country’s upper legislative chamber condemned “the mischievous intent of the reports.
Senator Sabi added: “The correct price of the vehicle, when it was imported in 2015, was $298,000 which, at the prevailing rate of N165 to a dollar, was about N49, 170, 000. Senate paid N62.5 million for the vehicle in November 2015. This is contrary to the mischief by those who decided to turn the $298,000 to N298 million as the price of the vehicle.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the price of that vehicle was N62.5 million and not N298 million.
“Senate will appreciate it if all reports relating to the legislative institution, particularly on this vehicle matter, are reported with accuracy and all facts put in proper perspective.
“Senate is a responsible institution and those who believe that when they have issues to explain before it, the next thing to do is to resort to falsehood, blackmail, muck-raking and mud-slinging, should know that they are just overheating the polity and undermining our democratic institution. Finally, Senate wishes to reiterate our total commitment to upholding the rule of law and to work for Nigerians, in accordance with our constitution.”
On Monday, Senate President, Bukola Saraki appeared before the Ethics and Privileges Committee, chaired by Samuel Anyanwu, probing the controversy surrounding seizure of the vehicle by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).
In his response to questions from the committee, Saraki denied knowledge of importation of the said vehicle and insisted he is not an importer.
He said purchase of the vehicle in question was handled the Senate Services Committee.
A report of the investigative hearing is expected to be submitted at plenary.
On March 18, 2017, an online news medium reported that the NCS had, on January 11, 2017 intercepted and impounded a Range Rover SUV and that the value of the car was N298 million.
At the interception, the driver claimed the vehicle belonged to the Senate President and presented a letter from the National Assembly Liaison Office in Lagos to that effect.