President Muhammadu Buhari might be heading for a head-on collision with the National Assembly, if he does anything to interfere with the plans by the legislative arm of government to purchase exotic cars for its members.
The Senate is in the process of awarding contracts for the purchase of various brands of exotic vehicles for use by its 109 members.
The vehicles, which would cost an estimated N4.7 billion, is expected to be distributed among the 109 Senators as utility vehicles to enhance their oversight operations.
Buhari had, during his maiden media chat on Wednesday, kicked against the arrangement by the
National Assembly to purchase the assorted cars for its members. The president argued that earlier in the life of his administration, he had cause to turn down a N400 million car purchase proposal for the Presidency and expected the legislators to do likewise.
“…I think I have to hold a closed-door meeting with the National Assembly regarding the cars they are trying to buy. I hope they haven’t bought them yet. They can’t buy cars for themselves and also take money in car loans. “I can’t see the National Assembly paying N4.7 billion to buy cars after collecting transport allowance. I will revisit that story. We have to live within our means,” he said.
But some federal legislators, who spoke to New Telegraph on the issue, described the president’s opposition to the car purchase and plan to halt it as an unwarranted interference in the affairs of the parliament.
Deputy Senate Minority Whip, (PDP, Ekiti), Senator Biodun Olujimi, posited that the constitution provided for separation of powers, which obviously removed the power from the president to control the affairs of the parliament. In her response to a text message, she simply stated,
“he does not have the powers. There is separation of powers”.
Also reacting, Senator Sonni Ogbuoji, representing Ebonyi South on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), also echoed the position of Olujimi. He said:
“Affairs of parliament are determined by them, so says the constitution of the Federal Re-public of Nigeria. We will buy vehicles if our budget accommodates their procurement.”
However, efforts to get the official position of the Senate on the matter proved abortive as the spokesman of the Chamber, Senator Aliyu Sabi (APC), neither picked his calls nor responded to a text message by our correspondent.
Many other senators also refused to respond to the inquest into their views on the issue of vehicle purchase, as they did not reply to the sms sent to their mobile phones just as they did not pick calls put across to them. In the House of Representatives, lawmakers equally did not take the matter lying low.
They said that President Buhari may not have been properly briefed about the issue of purchase of vehicles by the parliament. The lawmakers declared that going by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the president had no powers to stop lawmakers from buying vehicles.
The House also said it has autonomy to spend money within the confines of the constitution without recourse to the president.
In an interview with New Telegraph yesterday, Chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Budget, Hon. Timothy Golu, said the president had no powers to stop members from buying vehicles should they decide to do so.
“The president was not properly briefed by his handlers on the issue of cars. In the first place, the legislature is an independent arm of government, but most importantly, there is no way we can spend as much as N4.5 billion to buy vehicles.
The Senate can decide on what it wants to do and the House also has the right to decide on what it intends to do. This is democracy and the president cannot decide for the House. We have the right to spend money within the confines of the law. So, the president can’t stop the House from buying utility cars.
The loans he is talking about are repayable. But just like the president and ministers have utility cars, lawmakers also need utility cars for the legislative functions,” Golu told New Telegraph.