Nigerian senate and the road fund controversy

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Reports that emanated from the Senate last week raised the blood pressure of not a few Nigerians. News reports on Thursday last week indicated that the red chamber was contemplating a law that would ensure the creation of the National Road Fund.

A recommendation of the Senate committee on Works, headed by Senator Kabiru Gaya indicated that the creation of the Road Fund remains the surest option to get the numerous bad roads back in shape. In its report meant to be presented for third reading at the senate, the committee had recommended the imposition of an additional N5 extra charge on every litre of petrol and diesel consumed in Nigeria.

The report of the Senator Kabiru Gaya-led Committee which was scheduled for debate on Wednesday and equally slated on Thursday, but was shelved due to lack of time proposing the setting up of the National Road Fund, which it said would source its funds from extra costs to be imposed on imported and locally refined petroleum products.

Besides the proposed N5 Naira to be imposed on fuel users, bill equally proposes the imposition of the 0.5 percent charges deductible from the fare paid by passengers on inter-state roads.

The Senate Committee also proposed that other sources of funding for the Road Fund shall include Axle load control charges; International Vehicle Transit Charges; Roads Fund Surcharge of 0.5 per cent chargeable on the assessed value of any vehicle imported at any time into Nigeria; 10 per cent from toll fees on federal roads and 10 per cent of revenue accruing from lease or licence or other fees pertaining to non–vehicular road usages along any federal road.

Former governor of Kano State, Senator Gaya, had laid the foundation for the report on October 19, 2016, when he presented a lead debate on the Road Fund Bill, submitting that the creation of Road Fund is the solution towards problem of dilapidated roads in the country.

He had said then: “At the core to the Road Fund Solution is the concept that some of the insufficiency and unpredictability of funding (and by extension, planning), can be mitigated by extracting additional funds from those that use the road assets in the form of a user based charge or levy.”

The report immediately triggered the alarm from Nigerians across different divides. The Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN), the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the civil society insisted that the proposal was a wrong step in the wrong direction, adding that it would lead to increment in pump price of petrol.

NUPENG, declared that the proposal amounted to a huge joke, adding that the development would add to the suffering of Nigerians.

South-West Chairman of NUPENG, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, who made public the union’s position said that the proposal was ill-timed and also smacked of insensitivity to the current economic hardships being faced by Nigerians on the part of the Senators.

According to him, many Nigerians were already “striving to cope with the current harsh economic realities,” adding: “How can the Senate propose such a bill at this particular period when poor Nigerians can hardly feed themselves?

“The prices of foodstuffs have tripled in the market, while workers’ salary has not been increased.”

The NUPENG boss added: “Just a year ago, the pump price of petrol was increased from N87 to N145 per litre and Nigerians accepted the increment because of the sincerity of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.