The lawmaker gave the explanation on Friday during an interview on Arise TV, monitored by News Direct.
Last month, report broke that lawmakers are set to procure and take delivery of SUVs valued at N57.6bn. It is reported that each SUV would cost at least N160m.
The acquisition was largely criticised by Nigerians but Sunday Karimi, Chairman of the Committee on Senate Services, defended the purchase of the SUVs during a presentation last month.
In his defence, Ndume said “I am not very much concerned about the type of vehicle but it is not a new thing to be buying vehicles for officials. I have been in the National Assembly since 2003. When we came in, we were given cars, I think it was 406 and the Senators were given Camry and the price differences were not much.
“But as you know in summary, the price of vehicles continues to go up. I heard that the cost of each SUV is N160m, I don’t know about that because I’m not in the management, all I care about is if the vehicles are made available for us.”
Ndume said he is not against the use of made-in-Nigeria brands like Innoson but he argued that the local automobile manufacturers only assemble cars.
The Senator said, “The issue of why don’t you use the locally assembled vehicle, that is a point but I want to tell you that they don’t manufacture any vehicle in Nigeria. They do assemble. I am not a de-marketer of Innoson products, but you know Nigeria is Nigeria. Even if the use of plastic components from Nigeria, the plastic component of a vehicle does not constitute up to 10 per cent of the whole process.
“So, you can’t say you are manufacturing because you are assembling you produce 5-10 per cent of the product locally. If you are manufacturing, it means you are manufacturing from everything to tires, batteries and everything is either manufactured by your factory or manufactured in Nigeria for your factory. I prefer made in Nigeria. It is not like we are completely insensitive to the plights of Nigerians.”
Ndume admitted that inflationary pressure and naira depreciation have made the SUVs very expensive to purchase for the use of lawmakers.
“But I agree that at this time, the cost of products generally not only the SUV vehicles is very high, the question is if it is proper to have a vehicle for each Senator or member, house of representative, the answer I believe is yes,” he added.