President Muhammadu Buhari has frowned at plans by the National Assembly to buy over 400 new vehicles valued at over N4.7 Billion at a time the nation is facing cash crunch.
Mr. Buhari criticised the plan on Wednesday during his first televised Presidential Media chat, saying he had rejected a plan to buy new vehicles for him in the 2016 budget estimates.
“I turned down a N400 million bill for cars for the presidency, because the vehicles I am using are good enough for the next 10 years,” he said.
The president said he was having problems with the National Assembly because they were refusing to subject themselves to the new policy of a Treasury Single Account, TSA, and were planning plan to buy new vehicles.
“As for the National Assembly, we are having problems with them. I think everybody has to subject themselves to TSA as far as federal money is involved,” Mr. Buhari said.
When reminded that as the president, he might have the power to try to stop the purchase, Mr. Buhari said “I will explore that power to stop the expenditure of N50 billion for cars by the National Assembly.
“If I can turn down N400 million for the presidency that I do not need any new car because of the economy, I can’t see the National Assembly spending more that N47 billion to buy cars, on top of transport allowance they collect.
“I have to revisit that story. The budget for their transport allowance comes up to a N100 billion. With the kind of money that goes into the National Assembly, we have to look at it conscientiously and see how we can live within our means,” he said.
The president said he would call for a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the matter.
PREMIUM TIMES had earlier reported how the Senate had concluded plans to buy various brands of exotic vehicles for use of its president, Bukola Saraki, and 108 other senators.
The Senate plans to buy 120 units of Toyota Land Cruiser, 2016 model.
Other details of the vehicles included that they must be “American Brand, V8, VXR, 5.7, Auto Engine WITH INTELLIGENCE”.
The senators also want the vehicles to come with integrated navigator cruise control, QI-Compatible wireless charging and Kinetic dynamic suspension system, as well as being “full option”.
The Senate President, Mr. Saraki, and Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, are to receive, each, a 2016 model Mercedes Benz S550, as well as four 2016 Toyota Prado jeeps, four 2016 Toyota Hilux SS (Auto) and a 2016 model Toyota Hiace Bus each for their convoys.
An advertorial placed in one of the national dailies on November 13 shows that the House of Representatives is planning to buy two Mercedes Benz S550, 2016 Model; V8, 4.6L Twin Turbo; Full Option ( Treated). An engineer familiar with automobiles told us that the description “treated” means the car should be bullet proof.
Apart from the Mercedes Benz Vehicles, the House is also buying 14 Toyota Landcruiser SUVs, 5.7L petro Engine, Auto; Leather Seat; 2016 Model; Full Option; Keyless Entry.
The vehicle would be for the use of the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, and his Deputy, Yusuf Lasun.
Mr. Buhari on Wednesday wondered where the National Assembly was getting the money to buy the vehicles.
However, our sources at the National Assembly said the lawmakers were considering using money they added as part of a supplementary budget introduced by President Buhari earlier.
Another source said they also considered diverting the severance package of former legislative aides.
One of our sources said the National Assembly members had earlier paid themselves severance packages as early as August, not long after the inauguration of the eighth Assembly.
“What they did was to put the money inside the supplementary budget brought by the president and after it was approved, they diverted the money to buy cars for themselves,” a source said.
The Senate had on December 2 approved N575 billion as supplementary budget, raising it from N465 billion forwarded by President Buhari.
The Senate had stated that the added N109 billion was to cater for the payment of subsidy claims for the months of October to December which were not captured by the president.
Our source however said part of the added money is what the Assembly is using to buy exotic cars for their luxury.
The spokesperson for the Senate, Aliyu Sabi, had earlier issued a statement claiming the vehicles were to be used for committee work.
Efforts to speak with the spokesperson of the House of reps, Abdulrazak Namdas, were unsuccessful as his phones failed to connect several times.
While Mr. Buhari has said he would hold a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the matter, the Senate had already undertaken a Bid opening exercise for the purchase of the cars on December 17, a day before it adjourned for the Christmas and New Year break to resume on January 16.
It is expected that the cars would have been delivered by the time the National Assembly resume from their break.