Non remittance of N800bn: Senate to  investigate PPPRA

• Advocates PPP option

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said the Senate would investigate the 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 the country.

Senator Lawan stated this on Wednesday while speaking on a bill for an Act to Repeal the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency Act, 2002 and to Establish the Federal Roads Authority Bill, 2019.

The Bill sponsored by Senator Henry Basset, representing Cross Rivers South passed second reading yesterday.

Recall that the Red Chamber on Tuesday made similar vow to investigate the non-remittance of over N20 trillion into the Federation Account by Central Bank of Nigeria.

The amount according to the Senate was collected as stamp duties from Banks and Financial Institutions in the country.

The President of the Senate in his contribution on a bill for an Act to Repeal the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency Act, 2002 and to Establish the Federal Roads Authority Bill, 2019, lamented that previous efforts by Nigeria to concession government enterprise failed as a result of systemic corruption.

To mitigate corruption in the provision of certain social infrastructures, the President of the Senate called for Public-Private – Partnership in the construction of roads across the country.

He 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.

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“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,” Lawan said.

Senator Gershom Bassey, in his lead debate, said 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.

He submitted that Nigeria must emulate other nations that involve the private sector in road financing and management.

”There is nowhere in the world that this expanse of the road network is managed solely by the government.

“But unfortunately, over 80 per cent of goods and services are transported by a 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.”

Bassey stated that 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”.

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 an environment for private sector participation in financing, maintenance and improvement of roads in Nigeria.

The lawmaker further disclosed 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.

Contributing to the debate on the bill, another lawmaker, Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi (APC, Ekiti North) blamed the poor state of roads across the country on the high level of impunity by relevant agencies of government.

He wondered why the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) disregarded the provisions of the FERMA Act which makes provision for a five per cent deduction on petroleum products for road maintenance.

“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 queried.

“The FERMA Act says five per cent 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,” Adetumbi lamented.

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

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