Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Monday, told the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions of the Senate that he knew nothing about an armoured Range Rover car said to worth N298m, which was seized by the Nigeria Customs Service.
Saraki told the panel that he was not a car importer.
The Senate President had personally appeared before the committee. The importer, Mr. Tokunbo Akindele; and the dealer, who is the Chairman, Lanre Shittu Motors, Mr. Olanrewaju Shittu, also appeared before the panel.
The Senate had last Tuesday decided to investigate the allegation that an armoured Range Rover car worth N298m and seized by the Nigeria Customs Service belonged to Saraki.
The move was based on a point of order raised by a former Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, who called the attention of the lawmakers to media reports on the matter.
An online news portal, Sahara Reporters, which made the allegation in a report published on March 18, 2017, said the seizure of the Sports Utility Vehicle, allegedly belonging to Saraki, was the reason why the Senate was moving against the Comptroller General of the NCS, Col. Hammed Ali (retd.).
The medium reported that the car was intercepted and impounded on January 11, 2017, by the service for allegedly having fake documents.
Akindele, in his presentation, confirmed that the documents of the car were fake.
He, however, stated that no letter was received from the National Assembly for the clearing of the car.
He said, “There was no document received from the National Assembly with the clearing of the car. All the documents were received on receiving the car. We have the clearing documents, which we have found were a fake, and these were what were given to us. We found this out in 2017, but there is no mention (of it) to the National Assembly even on the fake documents.
“No documents were submitted by the National Assembly. And there is no correlation with Senator Bukola Saraki in terms of clearing this car and the fake documents.”
Akindele explained that he placed the order for the car “on behalf of the firm that I worked for, Oando Plc.” He added that the company ordered for the car because of the “various operations we had around the country”.
He stressed that the delivery was delayed and was no longer needed by Oando when it was delivered in September 2015, making the company to park it.
He explained that Oando gave the contract for the purchase, treatment, shipment and clearing to an offshore company, Hizmark Inc., which delivered the car.
Akindele said, “We receive the car in September 2015, assuming that all of these things had been done. All payments were made to Hizmark for the acquisition, armouring, shipping and the clearing, of which we have necessary evidence. The car was not imported for the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki.”
A member of the committee, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, however, asked the importer if there was any document from the National Assembly used in the clearing of the vehicle.
He was also asked how the car moved from where it was parked into the National Assembly custody or if there was any transaction with the legislature.
Akindele replied, “In the process of clearing the car, we did not receive any documentation from the National Assembly. We were not part of the clearing of the car; we were the customer who expected to receive the car for our own use. The vehicle was not to be used by Senator Bukola Saraki; it was not imported or acquired for his use at the time when the vehicle came into the country.
“The National Assembly took receipt of the car through a consignment from us through Lanre Shittu Motors in December 2015. The car had been in the country for two months and was sitting with no use. We released it to Lanre Shittu on consignment, who, onward, sold it to the National Assembly. At no point did we submit any documents for the clearing of the car; we followed due process in terms of payment to the company which handled all the entire process for us.”
Shittu said, “The SUV in question, a Range Rover bulletproof, was consigned to Lanre Shittu Motors in October 2015, after the consignment from Mr. Wale Tinubu, Oando’s Group Executive Director. It was a brand new vehicle but the vehicle came late. They were not able to use it for the purpose it was ordered. Being that we have been doing business with them for more than two decades, he approached me on how to help in selling the vehicle.”