Tokunbo Akindele, the importer of the controversial N298 million Range Rover Jeep (bullet proof), said to belong to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, but which was impounded by Customs, on Monday said the vehicle was cleared with fake Customs documents.
The importer said this when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges.
Akindele admitted that at the time the operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service seized the Jeep when it was being driven from Lagos to Abuja, it only had fake customs papers.
Explaining the history of vehicle to the Committee, he said the imported vehicle was ordered by Wale Tinubu, the CEO of Oando Oil, for official operations through the importer, but due to the lateness of the vehicle, which arrived in September 2015, it was consigned Lanre Shittu Motors.
He added that the Jeep was not imported by the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, but admitted it was supplied to the Senate through the Chairman of Senate Services, Senator Abdulahi Gobir, facilitated by Lanre Shittu Motors.
Shedding more light on Vehicle, the CEO of Lanre Shittu Motors, Lanre Shittu, explained that the SUV was consigned to his company in October 2016 by Tinubu because they were not able to use it for the purpose for which it was imported, hence he approached them to sell the vehicle.
Shittu added that there was never a time they sold a car to Saraki, but having seen a call for tender by the Senate Services through the National Assembly Management, they supplied the vehicle to the buyer.
It was, however, intercepted by Customs operatives in January 2017 on its way to Abuja from Lagos.
He said when the importer sent the Customs papers with which the SUV was cleared, they discovered that it was fake, adding that they never had any document from the National Assembly with regards to clearing the car.
In his response to the allegation while appearing before the Committee, Saraki said: “As the President of the 8th Senate and Senator from Kwara Central, I am proud of the Senate as an institution and its Constitutional role to represent the interests of the Nigerian people.
“Further, I am proud to honour the Senate Rule Book that guides our conduct and activities, which is why today I am presenting myself to the Committee today.
“I am here in person because I believe that what you are doing will help strengthen this institution.
“The institution must continue to be strengthened to carry out its mandate, rather than strengthening individuals.
“We must find ways to guard the institution and ourselves against those who wish to tarnish the institution and individual’s reputation because of five minutes of fame – they try to bring anyone else down.”
When asked if he had imported the SUV that is the subject of the investigation, the Senate President said: “I did not import any vehicle.
“I did not ask anybody to import any vehicle on my behalf.”
Speaking on the Customs Import Duty policy, Saraki said: “We raised the issue on the Customs policy based on the interest if Nigerians.
“But there are those who want to fight the Senate for raising the issue of retroactive duty.
“I urge the committee to protect the institution of the Senate so that it is not ridiculed.”