President of the Senate, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan

By Henry Umoru

THE  Senate declared Wednesday, that it would carry out a holistic investigation on  Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA over alleged non-remittance of N800 billion to the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) for the maintenance of roads across Nigeria.

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President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who disclosed this yesterday said that previous efforts by Nigeria to concession government enterprise failed as a result of systemic corruption.

Lawan called for Public – Private – Partnership in the construction of roads across the country if government must meet up to its responsibility of providing good roads.

The President of the Senate said this yesterday in his remarks after a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Federal Road Maintenance Agency Act 2002 (as Amended) the Federal Highways Act 1971 and the Control of Advertisement Act 1986 and to establish the Federal Road Authority to provide for the ownership, Regulation, Management and Development of the Federal Roads Network and for other matters connected therewith, 2019 (SB. 89) scaled second reading.

The Bill is sponsored by Senator Gershom Bassey, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Cross River South.

Speaking further, the President of the Senate said, “Corruption is also responsible for some of the challenges we face in our road sector.

“We recall that the privatization of various enterprises was made right from 1986 till date, and in most cases the privatization or concessioning processes were flawed and of course, we suffer as a country.

“So, we just have to be very careful. We insist we go on the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) partnership, but we have to ensure that everything is done within the law as required, so that no one takes advantage of his position in government to shortchange the entire people of the country.

“I believe that we need to demand what happened to over N800 billion that PPPRA was alleged to have collected.

“I think that we will take that as a separate issue because we need to verify and confirm, even for the sake of allowing PPPRA to defend itself, because this is not something that we can sweep under the carpet. N800 billion can do a lot of things for our country.”

Earlier in his lead debate, Sponsor of the bill, Senator Gershom Bassey who noted that the 36,000km federal road network is by far the largest and most valuable single public infrastructure asset owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria, said, “there is nowhere in the world that this expanse of road network is managed solely by government.

“But unfortunately, over 80 percent of goods and services are transported by road leading to tremendous pressure on our roads since other modes of transportation like rail and shipping are underdeveloped and air transport is too expensive for most Nigerians.”

According to Bassey, while Road development and maintenance in Nigeria seems uncoordinated and vulnerable to extreme climate events, “funding is poor and comes in an unpredictable manner making the cost of road maintenance in Nigeria to be one of the highest in the world.”

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He stated that the bill if passed into law would amongst other things, promote the sustainable development and operation of the road sector; and facilitate the development of competitive markets and the promotion of enabling environment for private sector participation in financing, maintenance and improvement of roads in Nigeria.

Bassey  further said  that the structure envisaged in the Federal Roads Authority Bill is a model that is yielding fruit in other climes such as India, South Africa and the United States of America.

In his contribution, Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi, APC, Ekiti North who blamed the poor state of roads across the country on the high level of impunity by relevant agencies of government, however wondered why the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) disregarded the provisions of the FERMA Act which makes provision for a five percent deduction on petroleum products for road maintenance.

He asked “Why did the concessioning of Lagos-Ibadan fail? Why did it fail in this environment and it worked in South Africa, Morocco and Malaysia?

“Mr. President, the truth of the matter is that those countries are countries of rules. Why do rules fail in Nigeria.”

He continued thus, “The FERMA Act says five percent of Petroleum pump price should be remitted to FERMA. That law has been ignored with impunity. Nothing happened, no consequence, and therefore, there’s no incentive for obeying laws in our country.

“This bill that we are talking about, the question is will it be obeyed? Because the preceding law is now been annulled due to lack of obedience to that law.

“The Pricing template of PPPRA excludes FERMA. This chamber asked us to investigate this matter; we prevailed on PPPRA to even speak to their inability to obey this law, we reached a brick wall.

“What’s going on, Mr. President? We need to ask this question because we cannot continue to pass laws that are not obeyed. We cannot continue to declare resolutions that are not respected, and as a parliament something needs to be done.”

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The Bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Works for further legislative action.

Vanguard

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