Nigeria: SERAP Sues Lawmakers over 2020 Toyota Camry Row

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Posted by JUSTOURS

Toyota Camry 2020 is a stunning car. The popular sedan is one of the top cars for 2020. Its attributes included a roomy cabin, plenty of trunk space and a comfortable ride. Those-in-the-know give Toyota Camry 2020 a nod for its high crash test safety scores. It’s a fine car but cannot be given away to Nigerian lawmakers.

The Toyota Camry and the Toyota Corolla are two of the most popular cars in some markets  including  the United States.
The Camry offers a wider range of available tech features than the Corolla, which is to be expected for a higher-end model. The 2020 Toyota Camry is a midsize sedan available in six different trim levels: L, LE, SE, XSE, XLE, and TRD.  Most trims come standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque (add 3 hp and 2 lb-ft for XSE models). Toyota made this vehicle a real pleasure to drive.

Most Nigerians can’t afford the exotic Toyota Camry 2020 model which costs about N9 million for obvious reasons. So how can the Federal Government lavish public money in acquiring 400 units for the House of Representatives members?  The questions is, why don’t they want to go small and cheap or even spend money on locally- assembeld cars, Innoson?”  That’s the bone of contention.

Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker, House of Representatives

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), meanwhile, has filed a suit at Federal High Court, Abuja to stop the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and other representatives from spending an estimated N5.04 billion to buy 400 exotic cars for principal officers and members.

The organization and 192 citizens are plaintiffs in the suit, number FHC/ABJ/CS/205/2020 filed last Friday on their behalf by their lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi.

SERAP and others are seeking a court order to “restrain and 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 to cost $35,130 per car.

They are also asking that the order remain in force until an impact assessment of the spending on access to public services and goods like education, security, health and clean water, is carried out.

The plaintiffs are in addition, seeking the following reliefs:

“A declaration that the plan and resolution to buy 400 Toyota Camry 2020 cars for members of the House of Representatives at the estimated cost of $35,130:00 per car is in breach of Section 57[4] of the Public Procurement Act 2007, Paragraph 1, Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 and Oath of Office [Seventh Schedule] of the Constitution.

“A declaration that the sum of $35,130 per car proposed and voted to buy 400 Toyota Camry 2020 cars for members of the House of Representatives is a breach of the defendants’ solemn constitutional obligations to know and follow constitutional oaths and other constitutional and statutory provisions governing their conduct, including their duty of care to Nigerians to faithfully protect and defend the Constitution and improve the lives, well-being and welfare of Nigerians.

An order of the court restraining and stopping the National Assembly Service Commission from releasing the money to the House of Representatives until an assessment of the impact of the spending on critical sectors like education, security, health, clean water and safe roads is carried out in the public interest in accordance with their constitutional oaths of office and constitutional provisions.

” An order of the court restraining and stopping all members of the House of Representatives, their assistants, agents, assign or such other person acting on their behalf from demanding or receiving the sum of $35,130 per car for purchase of 400 Toyota Camry 2020 cars until an assessment of the impact of the spending on critical sectors like education, security, health, clean water and safe roads is carried out in the public interest in accordance with constitutional provisions” and for such orders that the court may deem fit to make in the circumstance of the suit.

The plaintiffs argued: “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.

“All those who hold the strings of political power and power over spending of Nigeria’s commonwealth have a duty to answer for their conduct when call upon to do so by Nigerians.”

The plaintiffs also argue that it is illegal and unconstitutional for members of the House of Representatives to choose to buy expensive and exotic cars while encouraging Nigerians to tighten their belts and to patronize Nigerian brands.

They further argued that it is illegal for members to reject cheaper and equally reliable options.
According to the plaintiffs, “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 to spend 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”.

They submitted that 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.

The plaintiffs are also asking 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 Five Billion Naira in total, is not in breach of Section 57[4] of the Public Procurement Act 2007, the 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 suit, filed on behalf of SERAP and the concerned Nigerians by their lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “Members of the House of Representatives are either unaware of the constitutional and statutory provisions on their fiduciary duties and judicious use of public funds or deliberately glossing over these provisions.

“It is also apparent that, besides elevating their personal interests over and above the public interests, members of the House of Representatives have shown insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians, thereby violating section 14 (2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999, to the effect that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government and its institutions.

“It is public knowledge that members of the House of Representatives receive huge sums of money as monthly allowances and severance pay on conclusion of their respective terms at the National Assembly.

It is rational that many Nigerians are calling for a review downward of the sum proposed to buy cars for members.
“There is no better time for any government/public institution to take issues of security and welfare/wellbeing of Nigerians seriously due to rampant kidnapping, banditry and terrorism in many parts of the country than now.”

They contended that this case raises issues of public interests, national interest, public concern, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.

They noted that the House of Representatives during an executive session held on February 5, 2020 reportedly passed a resolution that 400 Toyota Camry 2020 cars be purchased as official vehicles for 360 members and other persons, including top management staff, Chief of Staff to the two presiding officers, as well as some of their special advisers and assistants.

“About N3billion was voted to buy cars for members of the House of Representatives in 2016.
“The sum of N128 billion was budgeted and allocated to the National Assembly in the approved 2019 national budget.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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