ABUJA—MEMBERS of the National Assembly, yesterday, picked holes in President Muhammadu Buhari’s comments that members of the House of Representatives collected loans to purchase exotic cars and that he would not allow the National Assembly to go ahead with its purchase of cars worth N50 billion naira as being proposed.
During his maiden Presidential Media Chat on Wednesday, Buhari said senators had been given car loans and they should be satisfied with that. He said: “I can’t see the National Assembly paying 4.5 Billion naira to buy cars after collecting transport allowance. I will revisit that story. I have had a closed-door meeting with the National Assembly regarding the cars they are trying to buy. I hope they haven’t bought them yet. They can’t buy cars for themselves and also take money in car loans.”
Describing Buhari’s comments as false, the Senate disagreed sharply with his assertion that it plans to spend N4.5 billion on cars, saying the upper chamber had no such plans.
In a statement by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, the Senate said that while it was contemplating purchasing cars, it does not intend to spend anything close to the various figures of N4.5bn, N6bn or N50bn as being bandied about.
According to the Senate, shortly after getting the management team and the Senate services committee to commence the due process for the purchase, certain contractors who bidded for the supply of the vehicles but felt their bid would not scale through began sponsoring media propaganda against the project and even leaked the recommendations of the body working on the proposed project.
He said: “Since the claim in an online medium that we are planning to purchase vehicles, we have not taken any further action on the issue. We are surprised that a proposed purchase became a subject of controversy and several figures that are far from our projections have been bandied around.
“While an online medium put the figure at N4.5 billion, another one said N6 billion and now the President on national television was talking about N50 billion. These are outrageous figures. Once the debate on the 2016 budget begins, Nigerians will have the opportunity of knowing how much we voted for purchase of cars and how we intend spending the vote.
“This is a responsible and responsive National Assembly. We really need project vehicles to facilitate our work. We will, however, follow due process when we choose to take decisions on the purchase. We will also take into consideration the views, feelings and mood of the nation in taking the decisions. We will not be profligate or extravagant when what is apparently needed in our country is moderate and frugal spending.
“We, however, call on all Nigerians to be patient with us, and not jump the gun or rush into conclusions, particularly when no decision has been taken. The way the issue is being presented is as if we have ordered the car or have paid for it.”
You don’t have right over NASS — Senate
Speaking on the issue, Senate Deputy Minority Leader, Abiodun Olujimi, who spoke in a telephone interview with Vanguard, warned President Buhari not to arrogate what she called “unnecessary powers to himself.”
Though she said she was not standing in for the Senate President, Olujimi said the National Assembly was not disturbed by Buhari’s outburst, saying it would proceed with its plan to purchase the cars unhindered.
“He does his things as head of executive arm of government and we don’t interfere, why is he interfering in our affairs. I think he is unnecessarily going beyond limit and we will meet as a legislature to address that. For us, we are not disturbed and I can categorically tell you that he lacks the constitutional powers to stop us from what we intend to do, “she said.
The National Assembly had proposed to spend N4.5 billion to purchase 120 units of Toyota Land Cruiser 2016 model, full options, for senators.
Buhari misinformed about car loans for lawmakers – Reps
On its part, the House of Representatives, denied collecting any form of loan to purchase exotic cars as alleged by President Buhari during his media chat on Wednesday.
The president said that the National Assembly requested for N47.5 billion to purchase state of the art cars.
Spokesman of the House, Rep Abdulrazaq Namdas, debunked the president’s claim any member of the 8th House has collected loan to purchase vehicles.
According to him, the number of units of the vehicles to be purchased has not been decided by the House, insisting that nobody has got any car loan since the inception of the 8th House.
Speaking in the same vein, Rep Emmanuel Ekon, PDP, Akwa Ibom, told Vanguard that “in the 7th House it was statutory for each member to have one utility vehicle to carry out his oversight functions. The president should remember that Nigerians are aware of the fact that the newly appointed ministers got official cars and a car loan”.
He added: “The cars in question are Peogeot cars that can never be described as exotic cars and Mr President is already screaming. May be we should buy the locally assembled ones here to make him happy.”
Rep. Nanna Igbokwe, Ahiazu Ezinitte Mbaise Federal Constituency, Imo State on his part said the provision for the cars was contained in the 2015 supplementary budget that the president forwarded to the National Assembly, which was passed into law.
He also said vehicle loan was not an issue of law as it is approved by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC and that the president cannot change it through a mere media chat.
Maintaining that the issue of allowance of government officials is fixed, he said the money was a loan that was supposed to be paid back within a four year period.
Rep. Igbokwe said the president needed to be briefed properly by those who prepared the supplementary budget he presented to the National Assembly.