Reps: Fears over National Roads Fund Bill

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NIGERIANS are hungry, the economy is in shambles, inflation has wafted into space, many merely exist, hanging unto life sometimes with only one square meal a day, sometimes nothing; the price of kerosene is so high that citizens are considering cooking with petrol. Things are terrible, many are saying. Smile Nigerians, for the worst is yet to come. When evil is crafted, it comes in seemingly positive packages. That is what the National Roads Bill, 2017 is: a black package painted White.

The Technical Committee for the Review of the Roads Funds Bill headed by Chris Okoye recently submitted its report to the Hon. Toby Okechukwu- headed House Committee on Works. The report is to be reviewed by the Works Committee and submitted to the House for consideration and adoption. Hopefully, it will not be passed and the recomemdations trashed.

The idea behind the Bill itself is not bad. The National Roads Fund is to help in the funding, maintenance and administration of the road network in Nigeria when established.

Note however that it is also to serve as a repository of revenues from road user-related charges (repeat: Road User Related Charges) and other sources for financing to be managed and administered for routine and periodic maintenance works on Nigerian roads.

But what many people are quarreling with are the recommendations of the technical committee, which invariable will end up hurting the ordinary people that the lawmakers have sworn to represent well.

The technical committee said there is the need to garner at least a N100 billion per annum for the national roads fund, and recommended “fuel levy of N5 chargeable per litre on any volume of petrol and diesel products imported into Nigeria and on locally refined petroleum products.”

According to the committee, other sources of funds include: toll fees not exceeding 10 percent of any revenue paid as user charge per vehicle on any federal road designated as a toll road; international vehicle transit charges; inter-state mass transit user charge of 0.5 percent deductible from the fare paid by passengers as well as surcharge of 0.5 percent chargeable on the assessed value of any imported vehicle into the country.”

The worry is that the cost of all the charges will definitely percolate to the common Nigerians who are already heavily burdened with a host of costs they cannot afford.

One of the cardinal responsibilities of lawmakers in the National Assembly is to guard the interest of their constituents to ensure that all is well with them. In this wise, it seems apt to say they should be able to discern any hovering wisp of evil couched in shiny legislative apparels- and stop it at the level of infancy.

The question might well be asked: Is the National Assembly aware of the pains of the people? Definitely! Recently, the House of Representatives passed a motion that it will set up a tactical committee on the biting economic recession.

While speaking on a motion sponsored by two members, Hon. Orker-Jev Emmanuel and Hon. Segun Alexander Adekola recently, Orker-Jev said:  “The House of Representatives wing of the National Assembly is charged with the functions of representing the people, making laws for the order and good governance of the country, checking the actions of the executive arm and its Ministries, Departments and Agencies and controlling the finances of the State;

“In carrying out these functions, members cannot claim to be oblivious of the hardships Nigerians currently face as a result of the sky-rocketing prices of foodstuff, transportation, petroleum products and other essential commodities, which have left children, women and the common man worse hit.”

So, if members are aware of the terrible situation that the common Nigerians are in, why make life more miserable for them?

It is also apt to recall that during a hearing by the Hon. Raphael Nnanna Igbokwe- headed House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the review of the pump price of petrol recently, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the National Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association (NACTOMORAS) said the government should not only halt any bid to add to the pump price of petroleum products, but even return to the previous pump price of N87 per litre of petrol.

The associations while making presentations before the ad hoc committee said in spite of all the increases in petrol pump price, the country has ended up with “bad roads, power failure, unemployment, poverty, as well as medical care deterioration and high inflation of essential commodities.”

The President of NURTW, Alhaji Najeem Usman Yasin, who was represented by Mercy Ibeh (legal department) said no to any planned hike in pump price and said the association rather prefers a downward review of the petrol price.

“NURTW is not in support and will not support any attempt at increasing the pump price beyond the current one,” the association said.

The National President of NACTOMORAS, Alhaji Muhd Sani Hassan in his presentation said: “We write to object, reject and disagree with any plan or move to increase the pump price of PMS fuel, without leniency, sympathy or consideration of the already depleted economic realities currently being experienced in the country.”

From the arguments above, it seems evident that the passage of the National Roads Fund Bill with its onerous recommendations will set the National Assembly against Nigerians. That, obviously, is the last thing on the lawmakers’ minds.

Source: The Nation
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