President Muhammadu Buhari has said he would take steps to stop the proposal by the National Assembly (NASS) to spend N4.5 billion to buy cars for senators despite the fact that they have been given car loans.
He also said he would not support devaluation of the Naira because it would not have positive impact on economic growth, while explaining that as part of the evolving security measures against the Boko Haram insurgents, he might consider banning hijab in the affected states in the North-East if the ugly trend continues.
Specifically, the NASS is proposing to buy 120 units of Toyota Land Cruiser 2016 model, full options for the senators.
Speaking yesterday night during his maiden Presidential Media Chat, Buhari said “I have had 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.”
The president, who disclosed that he turned down a N400million car proposal for the Presidency on the basis that the cars he inherited from the previous administration “are good enough for 10 years,” added that “I can’t see the National Assembly paying 4.5 Billion naira to buy cars after collecting transport allowance. I will revisit that story.”
News that the NASS was planning to spend such a staggering amount of money to buy cars for senators while the nation was facing economic difficulties had attracted scathing remarks from Nigerians who accuse the lawmakers of profligacy.
Apart from the proposal being out of tune with the prevailing economic situation in the country, it is believed to have violated the monetization policy of the Federal Government which bars government agencies from buying cars for public officers and political office holders.
According to the regulation, such officers are to be given 250 percent of their annual basic salary as vehicle loans and this translates to N5.07 million for each senator by the current salary and allowances fixed by the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC).
President Buhari, during the media chat, restated his determination to rid the nation of corruption, saying all those indicted of stealing public funds under the previous administration would be brought to book no matter highly placed they might be.
“I will not support devaluation of the Naira. I need to be convinced that there is need for the country to devalue the Naira. Is it against the dollar or pound?
“We have our priorities. To provide money to fund the projects we have already outlined, and not for those who want hard currency to import textile and toothpick.”
On insurgency, he said, “If this thing (suicide bombing) continues, hijab would have to be banned.”
According to him,” By the end of the first quarter of next year, we will tell Nigerians how far we have gone on the fight against corruption. I swore by the Holy Koran to defend the country’s constitution and the law. So, we will not put any body above the law.”
President Buhari said some of the indicted persons were already being prosecuted in the law courts and that others would be arraigned as soon as there were enough evidence against them.
Beyond the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), and others who are facing trial, he declined to mention the names of those who may also face prosecution soon over stealing of public funds and crude oil.
He said, “Our constraint is that the accused persons have to defend themselves in court. So, we cannot release their names to the public until the issues are completed in court. Whatever we recover will be presented in court.
“The documentation in court includes bank statements and documents from Customs Service that are to be presented in court. Until then, we ask Nigerians to have patience.
“We have to be very sure of the documents we get and we have to cross check records sometimes across countries and in the EFCC. Those who were engaged in the theft of oil were people of substance and have the wealth to hire the best of lawyers to defend them.”
While still speaking on the theft of crude oil, the president said, “The problem of NNPC is the involvement of international institutions such as shipping lines and financial institutions. We would ask for the cooperation of other countries to get monies lodged from sales of oil in different accounts and not that of the Federal Government.”
Reacting to those who said his anti-corruption war was one sided against the previous administration and that he should bring members of his administration accused of corruption to book, the president said, “I don’t tolerate corruption and I did not pick anyone that will corrupt my government. It is the right of Nigerians to take them to court. I have not taken anybody who is facing corruption charges.”