THE Federal Government’s Road Infrastructure and Refreshment Tax Credit Scheme, RIRTCS, received a massive boost last week when the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, announced the approval of newly-commercialised Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC’s, application to play a major, ambitious role in roads reconstruction nationwide.

Perhaps taking a leaf from the Dangote Group’s successful exploitation of the Tax Credit Scheme to reconstruct major roads in its core areas of operation (Lagos and Ogun states), the NNPC, with its nationwide distributive network, offered to reconstruct 21 federal roads at the cost of N621.2bn. What it means is that the NNPC has been allowed to deploy its tax in advance to reconstruct these strategic federal roads.

Apart from enhancing its own distributive network, this highly commendable scheme will help ease our infrastructural deficits and grow the economy. We have always argued that the federal budget alone cannot address our poor network of roads. Dangote Group’s cement technology-based reconstruction of the Apapa-Oworonshoki, Ibeshe and Obajana-Kabba roads will give Nigerians jolly rides for the next 30-50 years. We, therefore, welcome the NNPC into this scheme. They should immediately go to work.

There are several issues we will like addressed to put Nigerians in the clearer picture of this NNPC undertaking. The first is the equity issue in the distribution of the 21 roads. Fourteen of these are in the North, while seven are in the South. In terms of geopolitical distribution, nine of them are in the North Central alone, three in the North East and two in the North West, each covering massive distances.

Out of the seven road projects in the South, three are in the South-South, two in the South East and two in the South West. Each of the South East projects cover very brief distances from Aba to Ikot Ekpene and Umuahia to Ikot Ekpene. The NNPC derives all its products and money from the South but offers it mere pittances in the sharing of its first pre-tax road scheme.

We question the equity of this. The Constitution instructs that this kind of scheme must be distributed based on the Federal Character principle to prevent sectional dominance and cheating.

Secondly, how were these projects costed? There is no evidence that the National Assembly or any government-appointed agents or experts played any role in arriving at the cost. The NNPC, though commercialised, is still largely a public-owned company. The tax it is using to reconstruct the roads belongs to all Nigerians. It must be properly vetted before approval.

There must be checks and balances to ensure equity, quality of the work and accountability in the spending of this federal tax fund. Nigerians must show active interest in the Federal Government’s Tax Credit Scheme, particularly this NNPC package. It is too secretive and one-sided.

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