Posted by News Express | 10 November 2021 | 529 times
Two years after signing Executive Order 007 – the Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme – the Buhari administration is, no doubt, pressing on to make good its intendments: going by the roll-out last week of another batch of 21 roads to be developed under the scheme.
In this latest round, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) will deploy N621.2 billion of its tax liabilities to fix some 1, 804.6 kilometres of roads, spread across the six geo-political zones.
Giving the breakdown of the spread, Babatunde Fashola, minister of Works and Housing, said nine of the roads are in North Central; two each in North West, North East and South-South, and three each in the South East and South West. The identified roads, he said, were picked for redevelopment under the initiative because they are strategic to the distribution of petroleum products across the country.
Just as we observed two years ago when the first set of private companies were picked for the pilot phase, Executive Order 007 is an idea whose time had come. Aside the palpably inadequate budgetary allocations that meant that huge sections of the road sector could not be attended to timeously, there was also the notorious stifling bureaucracy and red-tape that more often than not ended in late releases of even the appropriated funds.
As it always happens in such circumstances, carefully laid out work schedules are in the end no more than a series of hotchpotch activities showing neither rhyme nor coherence, with budgetary releases coming far too late for meaningful work to be done, within the limited construction cycle.
Today, two years on, the nation can look back with some measure of satisfaction at the progress made by Messrs Dangote Industries Limited, Lafarge Africa Plc; Unilever Nigeria Plc; Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc; Nigeria LNG Limited; and China Road and Bridge Corporation Nigeria Limited – all of which were involved in that pilot phase – in fixing some of the nation’s major highways. While their overall performances might appear somewhat mixed in some respects, what has become obvious is the immense possibilities waiting to be harnessed under the scheme.
That NNPC has now signed on cannot be anything but progress. The corporation is, of course, a major, albeit, indirect player in the transportation/logistic sector; and so should know a thing or two about the nightmares that movement of products across the country have since constituted.
Coming into road infrastructure development at this time would seem, for NNPC, enlightened self-interest as it is of sound business sense. For a nation still largely in dearth of capacity in road building and maintenance, its entrance should not only help build the capacity the country currently lacks but also add the critical skills pool to catalyse development in other ancillary sectors. It is, therefore, a welcome development.
One question that naturally arises is how this will fit into the agenda of a transitioning NNPC. That area will obviously need working out by the Federal Government – and this as soon as possible. So also is the challenge of monitoring.
Considering that the funds to be so deployed are tax liabilities which should ordinarily have gone into the coffers of the government, the ministries of Finance, Works as indeed that of Justice, obviously have a lot of work to do to ensure that the companies not only deliver on agreed terms but that the nation gets real value for the money.
Finally, in a country where otherwise laudable initiatives of government are not only sabotaged but creatively manipulated by unpatriotic officials for selfish gains, civil society organizations, as indeed every Nigerian, should make it their business to ensure that the scheme delivers on its advertised mandate.
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