John Ameh, Abuja
The delivery of 360 exotic cars to members of the House of Representatives has begun amid the economic downturn in the country.
Investigations by The PUNCHrevealed on Sunday that 28 units of the Peugeot 508 series had already been delivered to lawmakers in Abuja.
The 28 were among the first batch of 50 cars supplied by the Kaduna-based Peugeot Automobile Nigeria Limited.
The House allocated a princely N3.6bn for the cars in the 2016 budget at a unit price of N10m.
A National Assembly top aide told The PUNCH on Sunday that the arrangement with Peugeot was that the company would supply the vehicles in batches because of the huge number of members involved.
“Fifty cars will be supplied in the first batch; 28 have already been delivered. That was last week.
“Twenty-two more in the first batch are expected to be delivered this week,” the source stated.
Findings indicated that the luxury cars would arrive in Abuja in batches till January, 2017 when all 360 members would have picked a unit.
About 223 of the members of the House are new, having come to the National Assembly for the first time in 2015.
But all 360 members will still benefit from the luxury cars, officially known as ‘utility’ or ‘committee’ vehicles.
Investigations showed that owing to paucity of funds, the lawmakers agreed with Peugeot to spread the payment of the N3.6bn across 24 months or “two years’ budget.”
The PUNCH gathered that the original plan was to start the delivery of the cars last June, but the delay in the passage of the 2016 budget stalled it.
“The House was not sure of the provisions in the budget owing to the general drop in the revenue available to the Federal Government this year.
“So, they delayed it till the budget was passed before they continued with the procurement processing.”
It was learnt that a lengthy disagreement among lawmakers preceded the choice of the Peugeot 508 series.
Investigations revealed that while the majority of the new members preferred the 2016 Toyota Camry, others argued in favour of Peugeot 508 on the grounds of patronising ‘Made-in-Nigeria products’.
“Eventually, the argument was sustained that Peugeot should be the choice to encourage local automotive industry; though it would also appear that there was a comparative cost analysis,” another legislative source added.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, confirmed that members had started taking delivery of the vehicles.
Speaking with our correspondent on Sunday, Namdas stated that female lawmakers were the first in line to pick up their units, while the males would take their turn in subsequent batches.
Asked why the House would splash money on 360 exotic cars at a time the country was in recession, Namdas played down any reference to the cars as being “luxury.”
He said, “This issue of cars is long overdue. They are not for luxury but for committee and oversight duties.
“The 8th Assembly is nearing two years, yet members have no cars to carry out their duties.
“Ministers and other officials in the executive have long bought vehicles for official duties.
“At the state level, members of House of Assembly have cars to carry out basic functions.
“I think it is only fair that members of the National Assembly will have utility vehicles for their assignments.”
Namdas also told The PUNCH that the choice of Peugeot 508 was to “look inward such that Peugeot, which is locally-assembled, will benefit and grow.”
On paper, the cars are the property of the National Assembly, but the tradition over time is that lawmakers take them along with them on completion of their tenure after paying a fraction of the unit cost.
It was learnt that the management of the National Assembly would evaluate the cars after four years and deduct an agreed sum from the severance package of members.
Besides the utility vehicles, members also get a repayable loan to buy personal cars