John Ameh, Abuja
The House of Representatives on Thursday defended its decision to buy exotic cars for its 360 members at a period the country’s economy is in recession.
It said lawmakers must have a means of mobility while carrying out oversight duties over Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government.
The House will spend at least N3.6bn across 24 months to complete payment for the luxury vehicles supplied by the Kaduna-based Peugeot Automobile Nigeria Limited.
The PUNCH had reported exclusively on Monday that the firm had already delivered 28 units of Peugeot 508 series to members in the first batch of 50 cars.
A total of 360 units of the exotic automobile would have been delivered by January 2017.
The Deputy Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Jonathan Gaza, while defending the procurement of the cars on Thursday, said that recession would not stop lawmakers from performing their legislative duties.
He argued that in a recession, both the executive and legislative arms of government were expected to work even harder to find urgent solutions to challenges facing the country.
Gaza noted that while working during recession, members were not expected to trek to the premises of the MDAs for oversight duties.
He added, “In a recession, we will all put on our thinking caps. We are working; these are committees’ cars and they are not the personal property of members.
“When you came here today, how did you come? Did you walk down to this place (National Assembly) from your house?
“If a member is going to visit an agency, will he trek there?
“We need materials, computers, stationery, cars; these are all for work.”
Asked to comment on whether the National Assembly would approve Buhari’s bid to take a loan of $29.96bn, Gaza replied that discussions were ongoing between the two sides.
The lawmaker said no conclusions had been reached.
He also declined to speak categorically on whether the government had begun making releases for the constituency projects of lawmakers.
The constituency projects of senators and members are worth N100bn in the 2016 budget of N6.06tn.
The refusal of the government to fund the projects is reported to be one of the sore points in the relationship between Buhari and the National Assembly.
But, when asked a direct question on the issue, Gaza parried it.
“We don’t release money for constituency projects. Our work is to pass the budget and we passed the 2016 budget. It is the responsibility of the executive to release funds for projects.
“Also, the money is not paid into our pockets, we don’t touch it,” he replied.
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