By Chukwu David
Stunning revelations have been made on how sharp practices allegedly characterised sales of National Assembly property during the transition from the Eighth Assembly to the recently inaugurated Ninth Assembly.
It was also alleged that scandals greeted the handling of the contract for the repainting of offices of members of the Ninth National Assembly, as the process reportedly lacked transparency and accountability.
New Telegraph ’s investigations on sales of most of the property of the National Assembly used by members of the Eighth Assembly revealed that the authorities of the apex legislative institution connived with members of the expired Assembly to sell the items at scandalously give-away prices.
Some of the items sold to members of the Eighth Senate and the House of Representatives at very ridiculous amounts included Toyota Land Cruiser, office computers, photocopiers and refrigerators, among others.
It was learnt that the National Assembly management gave out the Toyota Land Cruiser, a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), which was purchased between N24 million and N26 million each, to the senators and reps of the last Assembly for a paltry sum of N1 million.
It was also learnt that the NASS management collected the sum of N360,000 only from the lawmakers for two television sets, photocopier, desktop computers and a big refrigerator put together.
This happened at the tail end of the last Assembly when the management was taking stock of what they supplied to the lawmakers for their use in the dispensation spanning June 9, 2015 to June 11, 2019, in order to supply members of the current Assembly with basic working facilities.
It was, however, learnt that all the items, which were given out almost free to the legislators of the last Assembly, would be purchased afresh and supplied to members of the Ninth Assembly, which was inaugurated on June 11, 2019.
A National Assembly source, told our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, that the Toyota SUV, which was given out for N1 million only, was purchased at the contract sum of between N24 million and N26 million when it was supplied to the lawmakers in 2015.
The source also hinted that the contract price of each television set at the National Assembly was N2 million when the item was supplied to senators and members of the House of Representatives in the last Assembly.
This means that the cost of the two television sets mounted in each office of the lawmakers (one set in the politician’s office and one in the visitors’ waiting room) cost N4 million.
Surprisingly, the National Assembly Management asked the lawmakers to pay just N360,000 for both the television sets, musical system and other electronic gadgets installed in their offices.
It was learnt that the management wanted to sell the whole items for N540,000, but the lawmakers negotiated the price down and insisted that they would only pay N360,000.
When New Telegraph tried to find out the reason for the decision of the apex legislative Assembly bureaucracy to sell off the official cars of the last assemblymen and other facilities at the said amounts, those who volunteered to speak off record said that it had been the practice over the years.
It was further learnt that the monies for the items would be deducted directly from the severance package of the lawmakers whenever the Assembly management would pay them.
“This practice of selling properties used by previous Assembly at give-away prices did not start today; that is how they used to do it, but the only difference is that the amounts collected from members of the Eighth Assembly on those items appear to be the lowest and it is not helping our economy at all.
“Come to think of it, a Prado Jeep (SUV), which was supplied by contractors at the rate of between N24 million and N26 million was given out at N1 million only. It’s almost like dashing them the car.
“The most painful thing when you look at the matter very critically, is that the management is going to supply brand new vehicles to the lawmakers in the present Assembly and it’s going to be very expensive. Where will they get the money to do that, is it not from public fund?
“They should have collected more money from those outgone legislators and then make up the money to buy for those in the present Assembly.
This is why the National Assembly budget will continue to go up because there is no prudent management.
“Again, look at the issue of the office equipment such as television sets, sound system, photocopier, computer sets and other facilities in their office, the management of the National Assembly gave it out at a paltry sum of N360,000.
It was actually like giving those items out for free,” a source said.
Another area where sharp practices and non-transparent process were reported to have occurred in the National Assembly was in the contract awarded for the repainting of the offices of members of the Ninth Assembly.
New Telegraph learnt that the contract was taken over by some management staff of the National Assembly, who would never make their involvement in the contract known, to avoid attracting public criticism and, perhaps, facing the wrath of the law.
A source close to the National Assembly management told our correspondent that the contract for repainting the offices of the House of Representatives was being handled by one of the top management staff of the Assembly while that of the Senate was being handled by another top management official of the bureaucracy.
The source also revealed that despite the contract being awarded to different contractors for the repainting work, some of the lawmakers who were desperate to pack into their offices as soon as possible, brought painters from outside and paid them from their individual pockets to do the work.
According to the source, the senators who could not wait for the officially engaged contractors to do the work, paid as much as N250,000 to their privately engaged painters.
However, it was learnt that the price varied among individual contractors, as some lawmakers were said to have paid higher while others paid lower than N250,000.
Meanwhile, one of the National Assembly staff, who was in the know of the contract shenanigans, told our correspondent that the contractors who were awarded the repainting contract before the lawmakers impatiently brought outsiders to do the work, still came and received payment from the National Assembly management, notwithstanding that legislators paid from their pockets.
Efforts to get official reaction either from the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Mohammed Sani-Omolori, or any of the top management staff, failed because none of them could be reached before filing this report.
Members of the National Assembly are currently on their annual recess, which will terminate on September 24, 2019, while the management and staff of the National Assembly are currently enjoying Sallah break, making it difficult to access relevant authorities for their comments on the alleged sales and contract scam.