The House of Representatives has begun a process of preventing refurbished and smuggled from being supplied cars to it as the lawmakers have placed orders for the supply of 400 units of Toyota Camry 2020 model.
The House had resolved to acquire Toyota Camry 2020 model for members as official cars, otherwise called utility vehicles. The resolution was reached at an executive (closed-door) session held on February 5.
At the meeting, the lawmakers had rejected Nigerian brands, insisting on foreign ones, preferably imported and not locally assembled.
Already, about 14 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado were said to have been shared to the presiding and principal officers as well as chairmen of select House committees.
The 400 saloon cars will be allocated to each of the 360 members and some top members of management staff, Chiefs of Staff to the (two) presiding officers as well as some of their special advisers and assistants.
A member of the House, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said the House made the move because the National Assembly had been turned into a “dumping ground” for smuggled and refurbished automobiles.
He said some of the Peugeot 508 cars delivered to the members of the House had developed faults barely 90 days after the automobiles, bought for N6.1bn, at N17m each, arrived in Abuja.
The source claimed that the cars were usually delivered directly to each of the lawmakers, without passing through the right departments for inspection and approval.
As such vehicles carry official registration numbers, it will be difficult for security agencies like the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Customs Service to stop them.
The source said, “In the last (8th) Assembly, you must have heard about new cars being faulty. They have turned this place into a dumping ground for refurbished and smuggled vehicles. Many of them were refurbished and the way and manner they were supplied was questionable.
“Now, we are buying 400 units but you can imagine giving the contract to roadside dealers to supply five, 10 or 20 pieces each. How do you maintain standards (quality of the vehicles)? When did such cars become a commodity to be supplied by anybody? Meanwhile, some of those who supplied vehicles in 2015 are still owed.”
Consequently, the House and the National Assembly Management have formed a joint committee to oversee the acquisition, verification and distribution of the cars to the lawmakers.
It was reliably learnt that the Committee on House Services and the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, are supervising the procurement.
The Committee on House Services, which also exists in the Senate, serves as the protocol and welfare department.
The Chairman, Committee on House Services, Mr Wale Raji, could not be reached for comments on the matter. Calls to his telephone lines did not connect.
Sani-Omolori, however, dismissed the allegation of smuggled and refurbished cars as untrue. He stated that the lawmakers had the sole responsibility of choosing the brand of cars they want and the cost, while the National Assembly only supervised the bidding and supply processes.
The Director of Public Affairs, Office of the CNA, Yahaya Dan-Zaria, who spoke to our correspondent before the lawmakers made their choice, said, “The management has no hand in the purchase of vehicles for members; they take their decision on what they want to buy. Nobody decides for any legislator what to do with their money or item. It is not possible.”
Explaining the processes that lead to purchase of official cars, Dan-Zaria said, “The members decide the brands for themselves, using the money in their coffers. Whatever they decide is pushed to the management to appoint contractors who will bid (for the supply). When they bid, the highest bidder will be given. That is all. But nobody decides the brand and cost for them. It is their money and it is within their purview to do so. The management is only there to endorse their final decision; we cannot decide for them. It is not possible. We are working for them; we work under them; they are our bosses.”
When reminded of the faulty cars supplied to members of the 8th Assembly, the spokesman for the CNA dismissed the allegation that they were refurbished. According to him, the National Assembly has been facing difficulties since its budget was reduced from N150bn.
“When we were on N150bn, nobody was complaining but when N35bn was removed from the allocation, it has been difficult to manage the situation,” he said. He stressed that all capital vote cannot be expended on cars alone.
Dan-Zaria, however, admitted that in the 8th Assembly, contracts were awarded to various car suppliers who delivered the vehicles in bits.