Our attention has been drawn to a publication by Premium Times concerning purchase of vehicles by the Benue State Government published on Wednesday, 11th November, 2015.
All the figures quoted in the report are wrong just as the entire import of the write up.
One wonders why this purchase which was announced by the state government after a meeting of the executive council which took the decision several months ago would suddenly become news much later.
We announced that the Benue State House of Assembly approved that we purchase vehicles for government officials in the three arms of government at a total of N1. 5 billion.
However, the executive council approved that the cars should be bought at slightly over N1. 3 billion.
From the onset ,Premium Times got it wrong by underquoting the figures which we announced and by limiting the vehicles to the Governor’s aides,while lumping chairmen’s vehicles procured separately, by the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, with those approved by the executive council.
The vehicles approved by council included those for commissioners, special advisers , some members of the House and High Court Judges.
On all the other scores the report was also wrong. The vehicles have not been given out on loan except where a public official wishes to purchase it such would be made to pay.
In this regard, the regulations so quoted as being breached do not apply in the first place.
The transaction was also done in accordance with due process in the state.
It is surprising too that instead of going straight to Toyota Nigeria website to obtain the prices of the vehicles, Premium Times resorted to quoting online sources and unauthorised Toyota dealers that could sell second hand or even substandard products at give away prices.
The publication also gave the impression that Toyota has only one type of Prado which cost a particular amount, but this is not the case. We know of Prado TXL and VX which differ in cost.
Indeed the Sports Utility Vehicles, procured for the 13 commissioners are Toyota TXL model at N13.6 million each. None of them was purchased at N18 million as erroneously captured in the Premium Times report.
Even the first consignment of the four more costly VX model were purchased at slightly below N17 million.
With regard to the Corolla cars, we urge Premium Times or any other person to visit Toyota Nigeria or authorised dealers like Elizade to discover that none of the brand new ones cost the N5 million stated in the report.
Those supplied to the state government came at the off shelf price of close to N8 million each.
These vehicles have been procured once in four years which is the life span of the first mandate given to Governor Samuel Ortom.
In the case of the chairmen their vehicles are the only functional ones in each of the 23 councils.
The cost of the vehicles could be attributed to the exchange rate of the naira at the time of their purchase.
Their durability and dependability has not been questioned and is not in doubt.
At no time did Governor Ortom ever pledge not to purchase cars for public officials.
For the chairmen the Benue State Local Government Law prescribes their entitlement to official vehicles which provision is also made for such in the appointment letters of commissioners and special advisers.
It is unfortunate that the purchase of vehicles for public officials, usually taken for granted on account of necessity, would become an issue.
This is deliberate. The previous administration which has brought the state to its current situation deliberately planned that vehicles should not be purchased in the succeeding dispensation.
During the previous administration, Prado Jeeps could be procured for traditional rulers across the state who are more in number than the commissioners.
The slant in the report to give the impression of the Ortom administration living in luxury in the face of abject poverty indicated that it was sponsored.
No wonder that its publication also coincided with the arraignment of former governor, Dr Gabriel Suswam on charges of graft at an Abuja Federal High Court.
This is intended to divert attention from the arraignment and the issues involved.
This ploy should be ignored or dismissed.
Special Adviser, Media and ICT