2011 elections: Politicians in mad rush for bullet-proof cars

2010-04-24
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Everest Onyewuchi


The spate of kidnappings, assassinations, political murders and general insecurity in the country may have forced politicians, top government officials, wealthy businessmen and other affluent Nigerians into a rush for bullet-proof cars.



Latest information released to our correspondent by a top American auto armouring company also revealed that the closeness of the 2011 general election has caused politicians to massively place orders for heavily fortified anti-ballistic vehicles.



Following reports that politicians and wealthy Nigerians had expanded the internal security around their residences, particularly in the face of high profile kidnappings, our correspondent made an online enquiry from the Country Representative of Texas Armoring Corporation, Mr. John Uwaya, on how many new orders he had received for protective vehicles.



Uwaya, however, decided to forward the enquiry to the head office of the company in Texas, United States of America.



On Tuesday, the Executive Vice President of Texas Armoring Corporation, Mr. Jason Forston, responded by disclosing that the Presidency, governors, politicians and other wealthy Nigerians had raised their demands for new anti-ballistic vehicles from the company since the former governorship candidate of the Action Congress in Ogun State, Otunba Dipo Dina, was shot dead by unknown gunmen on January 25 this year.



Dipo had been shot dead at a spot in front of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State after his assailants blocked his Toyota Camry SUV while he was returning to his Lagos home from Abeokuta in company with his driver and a woman said to be a prophetess.



”Orders have certainly increased as 2011 elections draw nearer. With the untimely death of Dipo Dina and kidnappings/murders on the rise, many political candidates and hopefuls have felt the need to protect themselves,” Forston wrote in his reply.



The AMC vice president further disclosed that their Nigerian clients preferred the heavily fortified Cadillac Escalade that sells for about $400,000 (about N60m) per unit. This brand has its floor, roof, pillar posts and window overlaps armoured.



Giving a breakdown, Forston disclosed that the Presidency, Lagos State and Rivers State governments patronised his company the most, adding that on Tuesday alone, these Nigerian clients placed orders for 30 different grades of armoured vehicles worth $5,357,550.00 (about N803,632,500).



He wrote, ”In a given year, we could send approximately 50-100 units to Nigeria alone… About 30 per cent of our market is from Nigeria. Over the years, we‘ve probably sent close to 800-900 armoured vehicles to Nigeria.”



Contacted on Thursday, an official of the Lagos State Government who preferred anonymity because of the security implication of the contract, said that most of the anti-ballistic vehicles bought from the AMC were donated to the Rapid Response Squad for its operations.



”The Executive Secretary of the Security Trust Fund will be in a better position to explain the purchases,” he said.



Below is the transcript of the online interaction between Forston and our correspondent:



As we approach the 2011 elections, have orders for bulletproof and armoured cars from Nigeria increased?



Orders have certainly increased as 2011 elections draw nearer. With the untimely death of Dipo Dina and kidnappings/murders on the rise, many political candidates and hopefuls have felt the need to protect themselves. Clients have been trending toward higher armour levels along with our CEO package as well. Here is a sample gallery (picture of the vehicle is displayed). We call this vehicle ”The BEAST” and it‘s becoming increasingly popular among wealthy Nigerians. One BEAST vehicle can sell for approximately $400,000.00 USD.



How many has the Federal Governmet ordered? Which state government or business tycoon has ordered the most?



We‘ve met with Nigerian government officials, advisors, governors and generals at the highest levels. They‘ve come to our facility and met with us here in the U.S. They need protection, and they trust Texas Armoring Corporation to provide the best armoured vehicles worldwide. Our vehicles will stop multiple, black market armour-piercing rounds from an AK-47 or M-16, and although they‘re protected so well, they‘re also extremely lightweight, which means better performance and handling. The most popular vehicles we sell to Nigeria are the Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG, Lexus LX570, Toyota Landcruiser, Mercedes-Benz GL550, Mercedes-Benz S550, and the Cadillac Escalade. Typically, vehicles are not sold through a federal channel (e.g., a public federal bid). Sales come through private channels for clients with Federal connections. Many politicians are wealthy from other business ventures, so funds are from private accounts as opposed to bids or contracts.



In fact, just today (Tuesday, April 20), we received a contract for $5,357,550.00 USD for 30 units for various politicians and businessmen throughout Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Lagos. Lagos State and Abuja State are probably the clients that buy the most. In a given year, we could send approximately 50-100 units to Nigeria alone.



Can you give an estimate of how much the coy you represent has reaped from orders secured from Nigeria i.e. from the various governments, politicians, expatriates and business tycoons?



About 30 per cent of our market is from Nigeria. Over the years, we‘ve probably sent close to 800-900 armoured vehicles to Nigeria. We also met with a special advisor to the Presidency a few months back to discuss long-term partnerships for Nigeria.

 

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