Saturday 24 September 2016

Economic Recession: Governors Lavish Billions of Naira on Bulletproof Cars for Selves and Family

Even in the face of the biting economic crisis that has ravaged the Nigerian State, Governors have continued in their life of profligacy as they squander public funds.
There are indications that some governors, their wives and deputy governors have continued to ride in expensive bulletproof vehicles in spite of the biting economic recession in the country.

Saturday PUNCH investigations revealed that the number of bulletproof vehicles in the convoy of 14 state governors, their deputies and wives is close to 100 while the citizens have been struggling to enjoy daily meals.

Findings by some correspondents revealed that the average cost of an armoured vehicle is about N75m. The cost could be more, depending on the level of armour recommended or requested by the buyer, and such depends on the location of use and the type of threat the owner is guarding against.

According to JPA Armouring Group, an armoured vehicle manufacturer in Germany, the cost of a bulletproof 2014 Lexus LX 570 starts from €192,000 (N89.3m), an armoured 2015 Toyota Prado starts from €125,000 (N58.1), while the cost of an armoured Toyota Land Cruiser starts from €149,000 (N69.2m), excluding shipping costs.

Another armoured vehicle manufacturer, Texas Armoring Corporation, in the United States, says armoured vehicles needed in West African countries tend to be more expensive and buyers from the region are often advised to adopt the T6 protection level because high-powered rifles are the predominant weapons used by criminals there.

Interestingly, many governors that have yet to pay their workers’ salaries for many months and who are blaming their inability to pay them on the dwindling monthly federal allocation have enough money to buy these vehicles for themselves and the use of their wives.

At the beginning of the year, the Federal Government and states recorded a drop in allocation from N387.77bn in December 2015 to N370.38bn in January 2016 when oil prices fell from $43.4 per barrel to $39.

In March 2016, allocations from the Federation Account to the three tiers of government declined by a whopping N18.2bn – from N299.74bn to N281.5bn, according to the Federation Account Allocation Committee.

But in spite of this, it was learnt that some of the governors, their deputies and wives still maintain ostentatious lifestyles.

Saturday PUNCH investigations showed that Bauchi State Governor, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, and his deputy, Mr. Nuhu Gidado, have three bulletproof cars. A security source attached to the state Government House told one of Punch correspondents that while the governor uses two bulletproof cars, his deputy uses one.

The source said, “I can confirm that Governor Abubakar has two bulletproof cars while the deputy governor has one. The governor inherited two bulletproof Prado sport utility vehicles from his predecessor, Isa Yuguda.

“But just about a month ago, a new bulletproof car was acquired by the state government. The newly acquired bulletproof car is a Mercedes Benz 4matic. This car has yet to be put into use.”

The security source, however, said the governor and his deputy might need the bulletproof cars because of the precarious security situation in the state.

He said, “I don’t think there is anything wrong with the governor and his deputy using bulletproof cars. Definitely, they need these special cars because of the security situation in the country.”

The Senior Special Assistant to the Bauchi State Governor on Media, Sabo Mohammed, admitted that both Abubakar and his deputy, Gidado are currently using bulletproof vehicles but said the cars were inherited from the past administration.

He, however, denied the recent purchase of a brand new Mercedes Benz 4matic bulletproof car by the state government.

When asked about the newly acquired bulletproof car by the state government, he laughed saying “how did you know that?”

“I can tell you without mincing words that the state has not bought any new bulletproof car for the governor. It is not true. I only read that of Kogi State recently but not in Bauchi,”
Mohammed said.

Also, Saturday PUNCH learnt that there are no fewer than six bulletproof vehicles in the fleet of the Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola.

A security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, listed the vehicles as three Mercedes Benz product, a bus, G-Class, and a 4matic and two Toyota Land cruisers.

It was also gathered that the state deputy governor, Mrs. Titi Laoye-Tomori, has one armoured Toyota Land cruiser.

But the Consultant on Information to Osun State Government, Mr. Sunday Akere, said he doubted that the governor had armoured cars in his fleet.

He said, “I can’t confirm that the governor has bulletproof cars. If at all there are bulletproof cars among his vehicles, they might be the ones he met in the Government House before he became the governor.”

Findings also showed that Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, has at least four bulletproof vehicles. This is in addition to four others used by his deputy, Prof. Ivara Esu, and the wife of the governor, Dr. Lynda Ayade.

Investigations revealed that the bulletproof cars in the pool of the governor’s convoy include a 2015 Range Rover Vogue, Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (2015), BMW 7 series (2015) and Toyota Sequoia (2012).

The deputy governor uses a Range Rover Vogue (2015) and a BMW 5 series (2014), while the governor’s wife has a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (2015) and Lexus jeep (2010) bulletproof vehicles.

The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Christian Ita, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to his mobile telephone.

A security expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that it was imperative for the governor and his deputy to use bulletproof vehicles because of criminal activities in some parts of the state.

He listed dangerous spots where the governor would, as a matter of necessity, visit periodically to include Akpabuyo and Bakassi local government areas where activities of militants had posed security threat for some time.

Findings also showed that two bulletproof Ford Expedition SUVs were among the fleet of the Katsina State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Masari.

It was learnt from a source in the government that the two vehicles were bought last year shortly after the governor’s inauguration.

The source said the condition of Nigerian roads and the general insecurity in the country might have informed the governor’s choice of the vehicles.

Investigation, however, revealed that the governor’s three wives were not permanently resident in Katsina, but stayed in Kaduna and Abuja and used to visit the state during important celebrations.

Findings further showed that no official vehicle was attached to the three wives, but it was learnt that they use three vehicles, namely: Mercedes Benz “C’’ Class, Honda (End of Discussion) and Peugeot 607.

A Government House source told a correspondent that the Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, and his wife, Olukemi, have three bulletproof SUVs.

He said, “The governor and his wife often use the bulletproof vehicles when they travel out of the state or to attend social and official functions.

“The governor was initially using a Toyota bulletproof car during his first term, but later added the Lexus Jeep to his fleet after he was inaugurated for a second term in office.”

The Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, and his wife were said to have two bulletproof vehicles in their fleet.

The Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Jide Orintusin, confirmed to one of our correspondents that the governor was using the Toyota Land Cruiser bulletproof car he inherited from his predecessor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu.

Orintusin, however, said that buying a new bulletproof car was not the priority of the governor now.

He said, “We are interested in the well-being of our people especially in this economic recession that is affecting the country. We do things in order of importance; the happiness of our people is our concern.”

Similarly, it was gathered that two armoured Mercedes Benz G-wagons were in the fleet of the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.

Of the about five exotic cars the Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, is using, the Range Rover and E-Class Mercedes Benz car among them were suspected to be bulletproof cars. His wife, Omolewa’s Lexus SUV and Prado SUV were also suspected to be bulletproof vehicles.

The Governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communication, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, declined to comment on whether any or all of the vehicles had bulletproof facility.

“For security reasons, I cannot answer that question,”
he said.

In Benue State, Saturday PUNCH found that the number of bulletproof vehicles currently available for the use of the state governor, Samuel Ortom, his deputy and their spouses are 12.
A correspondent gathered that while Ortom and his wife are using five of the cars, the deputy governor and his spouse use three.

A source at the Government House said the immediate past governor, Gabriel Suswam, left six bulletproof cars for Ortom, while Suswam inherited two from the erstwhile governor, George Akume.

Investigation revealed that the model and year of each of the bulletproof vehicles belonging to  Ortom are 2012 Mercedes Benz S550; 2015 Mercedes S550; two 2014 BMW 7 series; 2015 Lexus LX; two Toyota Land Cruiser and two 2013 Escalade.

A Government House source said that each of the bulletproof vehicles cost between N70m and N120m.

The source added that Ortom bought two of the vehicles in addition to the eight purchased by Suswam.

The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Terver Akase, declined to comment on the bulletproof vehicles.

He said, ‘The question you put before me is purely security matter. Therefore, I cannot comment on that because if I do, it means I am exposing my boss to danger. It is not proper to ask me to tell you what kind of cars my governor is using. So, it is not right for me to disclose such information.”

The situation is the same in Enugu, Abia and Anambra states. It was gathered that the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has three armoured cars in his fleet. His Abia State counterpart, Okezie Ikpeazu, has two armoured cars in his fleet.

Ikpeazu, whose convoy moves without siren, has one 2016 LX Lexus car, a Toyota land cruiser XXRL 2016 and Toyota Land Cruiser XXL 2015, among others.

Reacting to the development, the Special Assistant to the Enugu State Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Louis Amoke, said Ugwuanyi had been using the vehicles he inherited from the previous administration in the state.

Amoke said the governor had not bought any official vehicle for himself since he came into office.

He added that the need for bulletproof vehicles was a security matter that concerns the Office of the Governor, and not necessarily the holder of the office.

James Eze, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Obiano on Media, neither answered calls made to his mobile telephone nor replied a text message sent to him.

Investigation also showed that Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State has 10 vehicles in his convoy.

A Government House source said eight of the vehicles are Toyota Prado SUVs.

It was gathered that the governor’s main vehicle, a Toyota Landcruiser 2014 model, and his backup car, are armoured.

It was also learnt that Governor Mohammed Bindow of Adamawa State and his Delta State counterpart, Ifeanyi Okowa, have many armoured vehicles in their fleet.

While a source said Bindow has two bulletproof Lexus LX cars in his fleet, Okowa is said to have four.
A correspondent gathered that of Okowa’s four bulletproof cars, three were bought in 2015 after his inauguration.

His wife, Edith, is also said to be using a bulletproof Lexus 570 jeep, which Okowa was said to have bought before he was elected as governor.

While giving the breakdown of the numbers, our sources said the governor has Benz 550 and Lexus 570 Jeep as official bulletproof vehicles.

An ex-security aide to a former governor in the state said two other bulletproof cars aside the four mentioned by Okowa’s aides were usually stationed in Abuja and Lagos.

The Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah, said he was at a meeting and could not speak on the issue.

Security chiefs in the state also declined comment. They described the issue as classified information.

But the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, explained that the vehicles were not meant for luxury but to provide security for the governor. He explained that presidents, governors and ministers are expected to have bulletproof vehicles to safeguard their lives.

Aniagwu added that the governor did not have more than the number of bulletproof vehicles he was required to have, but declined to give the number.

Yohanna Mathias, Chief Press Secretary to Bindow, said visitors to the state are being chauffeured in one car because the former administration left only two Toyota Prado (bulletproof) SUVs, two Hilux vans and one 406 Peugeot vehicle, which it uses to convey guests.

He also said the wife of the Governor does not have any bulletproof vehicle assigned to her, adding that the case was pathetic because the previous administration had boasted of over 60 vehicles, but that the current administration had inherited not more than seven vehicles.

A security expert, Patrick Agbam, says governors do not need more than two bulletproof vehicles in their fleet even if the economy is prosperous.

Considering the increase in poverty and hunger, he added that it was immoral for the governors to have spent huge amount of public funds on acquisition of bulletproof vehicles.

He said, “I don’t think the current economic reality requires governors to spend so much on acquiring bulletproof vehicles. I wouldn’t know how their security advisers convinced them to acquire more than two bulletproof vehicles.

“In security analysis, when poverty and hunger increase, there are bound to be increase in security threats, but that doesn’t mean they should spend so much money to acquire such vehicles. They could have used the money to cater for the citizens.

“If they do this, hunger will decrease and when hunger decreases, there will be decrease in security threat. Governance is about serving people. Even if we have a buoyant economy, governors and their deputies shouldn’t have more than one bulletproof vehicle each.”

An economist, Dr. Babatunde Abraham, referred to the governors’ action as economic sabotage.

He said, “It is not only when vandals destroy pipelines that we have economic sabotage. Spending state resources extravagantly is also economic sabotage. Even if there is no hunger, it is wasteful for any governor to have more than one bulletproof car, if they need it at all.”
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