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N1.4bn vehicles for Niger Republic: Buhari’s action lawless, reckless –Senior lawyers

The Presidency has come under scathing criticism from a cross section of Nigerians over its decision to purchase vehicles worth N1.4b for the use of Government of the Republic of Niger. Those who spoke in separate interviews with Saturday Telegraph on the issue on Friday were unanimous in their belief that the action is condemnable, ill-thought out and insensitive.

Those who commented on the issue include some senior advocates as well as others legal practitioners such as Dr. Fredrick lloama, Douglas Anieto, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, Babajide Koku. The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre Auwal Musa (Rafsanjani), a former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States of America, Ambassador Joe Keshi, also commented on the issue.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning , Zainab Ahmed, was reported to have earlier in the week confirmed the approval of the money while fielding questions from Journalists, shortly after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by the President. The minister was quoted to have said that the President reserves the right to take decisions in the interest of Nigeria, adding that “this was not the first time the country is providing such interventions to her neighbours.” lloama noted that such gesture was a misplaced priority that should give cause for serious concern. “There are no two ways to say it.

We are in dire straits in Nigeria and whereas they would hide everything under insecurity and all, each one of those Land Cruisers or whatever kind of car costs about N140 or maybe N150 million each; some things are just ridiculous. “The Federal Government had once again displayed a high level of insensitivity to the plight of Nigeria. A country that cannot feed its people is busy buying cars.

The FG is really taking Nigerians for granted. There is nowhere in the law to the best of my knowledge that the FG is empowered to carry out such act without prior approval by the National Assembly. Anieto said the action “is hardly justifiable in the current economic circumstance. In a situation where ASUU has been on strike for over five months, where average Nigerians cannot feed three square meals, where insecurity has become the order of the day.

“These are not good days for Nigerians in the hands of the Federal Government. No responsible government would have done such thing, most especially at a time like this.” Nnebe described the act as very insensitive and an abuse of Nigerians’ collective responsibility, adding that the source of the fund should be investigated. “The FG knows full well that we are being ravaged by near collapse of the economy and several other challenges that such funds would have helped us address. Irrespective of whatever the purpose, it is an irresponsible act, especially at this point in our country’s history.

“The source should be investigated by the National Assembly, because all funds should be budgeted for. Nigerians should get their Permanent Voters Cards, ahead of the 2023 general election and vote out bad governance.” Ejiofor berated the Federal Government for justifying its approval, wondering why FG engaged in such “level of financial recklessness and bazaar,” university students are at home owing to failure to meet legitimate demands by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). “How did we get here? What crimes did our forerunners commit that we are visited with this level of wickedness and indifference?” he said. Ejiofor added: “Every part of Nigeria is bedevilled by unprecedented level of insecurity. Even Abuja, the supposed seat of power, is not safe.

Security agents are daily decimated by terrorists and criminals because they are poorly equipped. A majority of the Nigerian security formations are still struggling with their rickety Hilux vans/vehicles, in the execution of their official engagements.” Babajide Koku (SAN) however differed with oth-ers, saying, “I believe the gesture from the president must have come in the form of aid to the Niger Republic. If you are receiving aid from America, why can’t we give aid to the Niger Republic? “As a country, we are receiving aid from other countries, and so why can’t we do the same to other neighbouring countries? I also believe that extending such a gift to the Niger Republic must have been based on intelligence.” Commenting on the issue, National Publicity of the PDP, Mr. Debo Ologunagba, carpeted the All Progressive Congress (APC) for engaging in impunity saying nothing shows that the sum was not appropriated for by the National Assembly. “This is to show the character of the APC as a government. We know that the Nigerian people know better now.

It is condemnable. Again, it goes to the issue of due process. Was the money approved by the National Assembly? How was it approved by the National Assembly?” Ologunagba asked. Reacting Musa (Rafsanjani) who described the action as ‘laughable’, that it is another proof of the obvious disconnect between President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerians. “It is laughable because the people you are giving the vehicles to do not live the kind of false lives our leaders are living here. Nigerians are not saying we should not help our neighbours, but you must fix your own house first. This is just to tell you the disconnect between Buhari and Nigerians.

“How more insensitive can a leader be; your own economy is having challenges, yet you are doling out funds to please others, when you can’t pay your debts. I don’t know what they really want to achieve,” Musa said. On his part, Keshi has said that the timing of the donation was wrong, and strange. Speaking as guest on Arise Television’s Morning Show on Friday, Keshi wondered what Niger Republic has done to Nigeria to warrant focus and attention it is getting from the Federal Government. The retired diplomat said the Federal Government has not explained the real reason behind the donation to Nigerians.

“The public outcry will help the political parties to begin to pay attention to foreign policies. There are reasons a country gives assistance. For example, when a nation gives assistance in terms of economic development or security, it’s not only to boost the image of that country, but it also contributes to the economic development of that country. “The problem with our own is the type and how we deliver our aids. I have no idea of the type of vehicles that were donated to Niger Republic though there have been pictures. But if the vehicles were purchased from Innoson Motors or Dangote Peugeots and donated to Niger Republic I honestly will have no problem with that because it would help those Nigerian industries. “But if you buy luxurious Japanese vehicles and you tell the rest of us that it is for security that certainly is not right, you are actually promoting Japanese trade rather than promoting Nigerian trade. “The second issue is the timing in the sense that there is no sector in this country that doesn’t need some assistance to survive.

 

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