The House of Representatives has said it is not distributing the exotic cars purchased for members.
The House said it was rather supporting the fight against coronavirus.
Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, in a statement on Friday, confirmed the delivery of the cars, but said they were not sharing them.
The PUNCH exclusively reported on Friday that the House had begun taking delivery of the Toyota Camry 2020 model acquired for members.
Our correspondent saw some of the cars at the National Assembly Complex.
However, the House has kept mum on the cost of the cars as the contract for the supply was not awarded to accredited Toyota dealers.
Our correspondent observed that the House procured the V6 Limited Edition variant of the car.
Giving a breakdown of how the vehicles are to be shared, a legislator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they would be allocated to each of the 360 members and some top management staff members, Chiefs of Staff to the (two) presiding officers as well as some of their special advisers and assistants.
The lawmaker said new members who did not get committee appointments would be the beneficiaries
He said, “I was told that 100 cars had already arrived and they are sharing them to new members who are not chairmen and deputy chairmen (of committees). The next batch will be for returning (ranking) members who are neither chairmen nor deputy chairmen. The last batch will go to ranking members with appointments.”
Kalu said, “A newspaper report on March 27 insinuated that the Green Chamber was distributing official vehicles to the 360 members of the House at this critical moment that the country is battling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This story is rather unfortunate. The National Assembly has been closed since Tuesday following the coronavirus pandemic and most lawmakers are also in their constituencies.
“We are not unmindful of the mood of the nation at this critical time and are committed to ensuring the country stands united in these trying times.
He said despite adjourning for two weeks to curb the spread of coronavirus, the House had expressed its readiness to reconvene at any time to consider the measures aimed at addressing the situation, including a review of the 2020 Appropriation Act, “if need be.”
Kalu said, “We are committed to joining hands with the executive arm to take measures aimed at containing the pandemic and providing succour to Nigerians as a result of the economic shock necessitated by COVID-19 all over the world.’’
“We, therefore, urge Nigerians to disregard the newspaper report on the vehicles’ distribution as it is mischief taken too far. The paper chose to ignore all the House did within this time – the special session on addressing the high number of out-of-school children, intervening in the strike action by FCT health workers, et“We also call on Nigerians to join hands with governments at all levels in addressing the issue of COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s all adhere strictly to the preventive measures taken by the government.”
The cars, which belong to the National Assembly, are usually auctioned to the lawmakers after four years.
A check on the website of Toyota showed that the price of the car, depending on the variants, is between about $25,000 to $35,000, excluding the cost of shipping and clearing at the port, which takes about 100 per cent of the actual cost of each unit
For instance, those with higher specification, as the National Assembly usually goes for higher range of vehicles, are XLE at $29,455, XLE V6 at $34,580, XSE at $30,005 and XSE V6 at $35,130.
Already, about 14 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado were said to have already been shared to the presiding and principal officers as well as chairmen of select House committees.
The Committee on House Services and the National Assembly Management, led by the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, had constituted a joint committee to oversee the acquisition, verification and distribution to the lawmakers.
The Committee on House Services, which also exists in the Senate, serves as the protocol and welfare department.
The joint committee was set up as some members have decried that the National Assembly had been turned into a “dumping ground” for smuggled and refurbished automobiles.
Some of the Peugeot 508 cars delivered to the members of the House had developed faults barely 90 days after the automobiles, bought with N6.1bn, at N17m each, arrived in Abuja.
Members had started complaining of faults in the cars just weeks after taking delivery, especially electrical and mechanical issues.