The House of Representatives said about N6.1 billion had been earmarked for new Peugeot 508 cars that will be distributed to all the 360 members.
The House spokesperson, Abdulrazak Namdas, told reporters that 200 lawmakers have taken deliveries of their cars within the last few months, at the cost of N17 million per unit. Others are still anticipating their deliveries, which are expected to be met before the year runs out.
“Over 200 cars have been supplied out of 360, and we are still getting more. Every member will get their car by the end of this year,” Mr. Namdas said.
The car purchase binge, which is the latest in a culture that has persisted for decades, was criticised by Nigerians when it was first made public last year.
In December, a lawyer dragged the parliament to court in Lagos after it was discovered that lawmakers budgeted N3.6 billion for the cars.
At the time, it was estimated that the cars would cost N10 million each. But Mr. Namdas said the exchange rate crisis that beset the country for almost two years had taken its toll on the budget of the parliament and warranted an upward review of procurement.
Taxpayers will now pay more than 70% more for the cars, based on Mr. Namdas’ new estimates of N17 million per unit.
But, “the payment for the vehicle is being done in instalments,” Mr. Namdas said, implying that lawmakers would be made to pay back all the expenses from their respective salaries and benefits.
But critics said the tactics had often been deployed to deceive Nigerians as lawmakers would be allowed to go with their cars at auction price when their tenures expire in 2019.
“This is a worn-out strategy that they’re bragging about,” Victor Okhai, a social critic, told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday morning. “We know they would pay little to nothing from their pockets and still walk away with the car at a ridiculously cheap amount.”
Mr. Okhai said the purchase was “insensitive and gutsy” when past lawmakers embarked on it, and even more distasteful now.
“At a time when barely a fraction of Nigerians could afford to comfortably feed themselves, these lawmakers are buying cars that they don’t need,” he said. “Of what use is a 508 Peugeot to Speaker Yakubu Dogara who already has some of the most exotic cars in his convoy?” he added.
“They hold Nigerians in disdain and they’re not even pretending about it.”
But Mr. Namdas said the House entered an understanding with Peugeot Automobile Nigeria for lawmakers to settle the cost on their own over a few years.
Besides, Mr. Namdas said the purchase would further stimulate the country’s struggling economy, which has been in recession for a year, through employment opportunities in the supply chain.