Johnson Agbonayinma, representative of Egor/Ikpoba Okha (Edo state) constituency at the house of representatives, has defended the decision of the green chamber to order 360 Peugeot cars in an era of economic hardship.
The lawmakers budgeted N3.6bn for cars in the 2016 budget, and PUNCH had reported that 28 units of Peugeot 508 series had already been delivered to lawmakers in Abuja.
Efforts to speak with Abdulrazak Namdas, spokesman of the reps, and Jonathan Gaza, his deputy, were futile, as they neither answered their phones nor responded to text messages.
But Agbonayinma expressed fury when TheCable contacted him over the issue on Saturday.
“Don’t ask me that kind of question; go and interview Mr. President, who is flying helicopters and jets,” the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker said.
“Don’t ask me about the house of rep ordering Peugeot 305 or 508 when the special assistants (SA) and personal assistants (PAs) of the president and ministers are driving Land Cruiser and Lexus jeeps.
“You have not even interviewed councillors and state house of assembly (lawmakers) who are driving jeeps.”
According to PUNCH, the 28 cars were among the first batch of 50 supplied by Peugeot Automobile Nigeria Limited.
The newspaper quoted a national assembly top aide as saying 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,” the aide reportedly said.
“Twenty-two more in the first batch are expected to be delivered this week.”
During an interactive session with journalist earlier in the week, Gaza said the vehicles were not personal property of the lawmakers.
He explained that they were needed to perform statutory responsibilities.
“If a member is going to visit an agency, will he trek there? I want to ask you a straightforward question, how did you get here today, did you walk from where you live?” he asked.
“These cars are for the committees to conduct oversight, they are not the personal property of members. The committees need mobility and that is why the cars are needed for them to perform duties properly and bring out the best.
“By God’s special grace, we will get all that we need to work. Whatever material we need, be it computer, petrol, car, or television… Just like you got this beautiful press centre, so you can relax and report properly, we also need the necessary tools in order to perform our statutorily duties.”
The effect of the economic recession is telling on citizens, with the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealing that 2.6 million people lost their jobs within the first and second quarter of 2016.