First, it started with the purchase of vehicles by the National Assembly for the Committe Chairmen. Then the DAILY TRUST news paper decided to take a wider look at the issue. It was the paper’s lead story of Tuesday, the 24th of May 2016, with a caption “States Spend billions on legislators’ cars”.
But what caught my attention most was where the paper wrote: “Most of the states bought vehicles for their legislators…..though the RMAFC law earmarked N5.3 million only as vehicle loan for each lawmaker which is paid once in four years.” This statement, by the paper, pushes the understanding that a public official cannot collect a car loan and also collect an official car at the same time.
Let me state the following facts:
1. I am a legislator.
2. I collected a car loan.
3. I also use an official car bought by the Government.
I am a beneficiary. I may be biased. So be aware of possible subjectivity in this piece.
So, the subject of discussion is: What is the legality or otherwise of a public servant who has collected a car loan to also be provided with an official vehicle?
The RMAFC law concerning the Public officers’ Salaries and other fringe benefits provides a table with four distinct subheads. They are:
1. Annual Basic Salary
2. Regular Allowances
3. Other Allowances
4. Motor Vehicle LOAN (Optional), which is the issue under discussion.
To begin with, let it be clear that, according to the RMAFC law, all public servants, from the President down to a councillor, are entitled to a car loan. But let it also be understood that this car loan is optional. It means that both parties have the right to give or reject the car loan. The government has the right to give or not to give a car loan. The public servant also has the right to collect or reject a car loan granted by the government.
Let it also be understood that a loan is loan whoever is the granting authority, be it a bank, a friend or a government. It is not a grant or an allowance. It is a debt which must be repaid back in full. A loan also, once collected and the repayment conditions fulfilled, it becomes your personal property for your personal use.
Now for clear understanding of the RMAFC law on the issue of car loan, lets take the following scenarios ‘A’ and ‘B’:
Mr. John was elected as the President of Nigeria. Before his election, he did not have a car. so now he is a president without a car, but according to the RMAFC law, he has an option of collecting a car loan which he must repay in full before he leaves office. And the condition of repayment is that a substantial amount will be deducted from his salary, monthly, to repay the loan. He makes some analysis and decides that he will not take the loan. Since he doesn’t have a personal car and he also doesn’t take a car loan, who will provide for his official transportations as the President of his country; as a public servant?
Mr. John decides to obtain the car loan and buys a car. The loan is repaid back by deductions from his monthly salary. To whom does this car belong? To Mr. John or to the Government? If the car belongs to Mr. John, is he suppose to use it for his official transportations? If the car belongs to the government, what about the money that the government deducted from his salary every month?
According to the RMAFC provision, the President of Nigeria is only entitled to an optional Motor Vehicle Loan of N14, 058,820 in four years. So where do all the numerous vehicles in the President’s convoy come from. The law also made mention of motor vehicle only, but the last time I saw my President in Katsina he came in a plane. He also used a helicopter to Daura. “As at the last count (November 17, 2015.), there are currently 10 aircrafts in the presidential fleet”. So??????
The intendment of the provision of car loan to public servants, at least from my perspective, is for them to have additional vehicles for private and family usage. While the government is to provide transportations for official engagements which must be returned to the government at the expiration of a tenure. And the means and type of transportations provided for the public officials depend on the economic situation of the government.
But on the issue of the types of expensive cars being bought, especially in the face of dwindling resources being experienced by Nigeria, I share the ‘Daily Trust’s concern. There is issue of morality here. It is very inconsiderate and insensitive of any government that can not pay workers’ salaries to spend hundreds of millions in the purchase of car for its officials.
But that calls for some sort of control by the RMAFC. Just like what I heard was introduced during the Murtala’s regime, I believe there is a need for RMAFC to specify the type of vehicle every public office holder should use as official vehicle…
This is my understanding on the issue of car loan for the public officials. I am not a lawyer, so I need an objective and a more informed criticism of my view point.