Don’t go with official vehicles, Presidency tells ministers

Two days to the end of the eight-year regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and handover of power to the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on May 29, the Presidency has said ministers will not be allowed to leave office with their official vehicles.

It said they would only get what the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission prescribes as their severance benefits.

It noted further that Buhari and the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), would also leave behind their armoured, luxury vehicles, which would be taken over by their successors, Tinubu and his deputy, Kashim Shettima, respectively.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, gave the clarification in an interview with one of our correspondents, following the usual practice of government officials leaving office with their official vehicles.

Across the country and at all levels of government, it has become a norm for heads of the executive arm and some heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies to leave office with government vehicles; some sold the vehicles to themselves at a rate many people describe as ridiculous; some allocate huge funds for themselves for the purpose of buying vehicles; while some buy or convert government properties to personal use after their tenure.

Speaking with Saturday PUNCH, Shehu stated that Buhari, Osinbajo and the ministers would not leave office on May 29 with the vehicles allocated to them.

He said, “As we speak today, nobody is entitled to official cars. What they use are project vehicles. These ones can only be boarded and sold after four years of usage. That is when the book value has been exhausted.

“This is as far as the law recommends as we speak. So, don’t expect that because ministers are leaving, they will carry their vehicles under Buhari. It is not going to happen. If the ministers are not taking their vehicles along, you don’t expect the president to take any. It is not going to happen.”

The presidential spokesperson explained that the law already provides for former presidents and their deputies to get a certain number of vehicles at certain intervals, and that there was no need for them to take government vehicles.

He stated, “Former Heads of State have a prescribed number of vehicles they are entitled to, which may be changed after a certain number of years. And the President has kept to this by supplying that number of vehicles to all former Heads of State each time it is due. The President will not place himself above the others; that I can assure you.”

‘Vehicles too sophisticated’

Meanwhile, a top source in the Presidency has explained that the vehicles used by the President and the Vice-President were purpose-built and could not be used by private citizens, which the occupants of the offices become after leaving office.

The source noted that apart from the high cost of the vehicles, they come with high-end customisation, including security and other features.

The source said the vehicles, including Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Toyota Land Cruiser sport utility vehicles, buses and luxury vans, meet certain comfort, security and durability requirements.

Findings by one of our correspondents revealed that the President and the Vice-President use armoured 2019 Mercedes Benz Maybach S650 bullet-proof sedans, which some experts estimate to be worth at least N300m.

The Buhari-led government earmarked N907m in 2018 for a phased acquisition of new vehicles and spare parts for the presidential fleet.

The 2019 budget also allocated N843m for the purchase and maintenance of motor vehicles.

The high cost is due to the extensive customisation, security features and the limited production of the armoured luxury vehicles.

It was gathered that the President’s official vehicle is a five-seater sedan, fitted with massage and heated seats. With a 5.5-liter 12-cylinder turbocharged engine, it revs at 5,000 per minute, with 510 horsepower. It also has miles per gallon rating of 25mpg on the highway and 15 mpg in the city.

The 2018 allocation meant that Buhari would no longer use the defective 2014 Mercedes Benz S350 passed to him by his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.

In 2022, N1.6bn and N30m were allocated for car-related expenses in the offices of the President and the Vice-President respectively.

However, as Buhari and Osinbajo leave office on May 29, a source in the Presidency said both officers would leave behind the high-end luxury vehicles that have chauffeured them for the past few years.

Like Shehu, the source stressed that since the country caters for all past Heads of State, there was no need to leave office with such expensive vehicles.

The source explained, “Past presidents are already under the care of the government. In the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, there is a department that monitors the affairs of past Heads of State. That department takes care of everything past presidents need.

“He (Buhari) cannot take those vehicles. Those are bulletproof vehicles that cost a lot of money. They don’t come cheap. They will be used by the next President. What will he be doing with them as a private citizen?

“I know there are governors and heads of ministries, departments and agencies who after using a vehicle for a while, they may leave office with it. But that does not apply to the Office of the President and the Vice-President.”

Ex-Presidents, Vice-Presidents

Findings by one of our correspondents showed that since 2005, the Federal Government has earmarked at least N18.2bn as ‘Entitlements of former presidents/heads of states and vice-presidents/chief of general staff.’

The figure covers the former leaders’ medical care, pensions, annual holidays, office and general maintenance and the periodic “procurement of treated vehicles for the pool of former heads of state and former vice-presidents.”

This is aside from the N500,000 each former President or Head of State receives as sitting allowance whenever they attend the Council of State meeting.

Past living Heads of State who currently enjoy these privileges include General Yakubu Gowon, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, General Ibrahim Babangida, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and Goodluck Jonathan.

Former vice-presidents and chiefs of general staff who still enjoy the package are Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Atiku Abubakar and Namadi Sambo.

Meanwhile, the families of all deceased former presidents are entitled to an annual allowance of N1m payable as N250,000 per quarter, while the families of deceased deputies get N750,000 per annum payable in the sum of N187,500 per quarter.

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