Monday , 15 April 2024

Renewed Hope : Senate backs Umahi’s initiative on tax credit scheme of the Federal Ministry of Works, with the aim of bridging the gap in financing road infrastructure

In keeping with his commitment to the tenets of checks and balances and separation of powers emphasized by the Renewed Hope administration of the President of Nigeria,*His Excellency, President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR* the Honourable Minister of Works, *His Excellency Sen Engr Nweze David Umahi CON* led the critical departments of his Ministry to honour the invitation of the Senate Commitee on Finance on an interactive session in respect of the funding of critical roads, NNPCL Funding and Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme held at the Conference Room of the Senate on 22nd February 2024.

As part of the powers of oversight by the National Assembly, the Senate Commitee on Finance ably chaired by Distinguished Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, CON invited the Federal Ministry of Works to ascertain the level of performance of the funding of the road projects captured under the Tax Credit Scheme, the rationale behind the creation of the Federal Government’s Executive Order No. 007 of 2019 passed by the past administration and the constitutionality of the Executive Order, having regard to section 80 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. As part of his remarks, the Senate Committee Chairman said, “We need to know the beneficiaries of that tax credit and the essence of the job that they have done today. Having said that, going also by what you said, funds should all come to the Federation account. Appropriation is a different thing. Road is not the only problem we have in this country. We equally have challenges with health and others. So when this money comes into the pool, the federation account, we can now appropriate accordingly”

The subject of discussion, as it where, provoked different points of conversations by the Distinguished Committee members, after which the Hon. Minister of Works was given the floor to address the concerns raised by the committee members. He gave an overview of the structure and the status of the Tax Credit Scheme as well as the philosophy behind the creation of the Executive Order, which, according to the Honourable Minister, was a product of the decision by the National Economic Council under the past administration, designed to fill the funding gap in the road infrastructure development through fronting loading of Tax by the private sector to fund eligible road projects. According to the Hon. Minister, this scheme would incentivise the private sector to participate in the efficient and effective development of roads across their economic corridors and industrial clusters, which provide value for money. The programme, which has so far attracted funding for about 85 highway projects, is receiving funding from Dangote Industries, Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas Ltd (NLNG), Nigeria National Petroleum Petroleum Corporation Ltd (NNPCL),MTN Nigeria Telecommunications Ltd. He also spoke on the Ministry’s efforts in scopping the projects and making sure that design complies with the word’s best standards. He added that aggressive supervision was helping in ensuring quality project delivery across the nation.

The Minister gave an example of Benin- Warri road being done under the Credit Scheme and explained the innovations introduced by the Ministry under him to bring enduring solutions to the road failures. He said. “Then we now have from Benin to Warri. That’s where some of the projects are listed. If you look at the documents we submitted, you will see that we analyzed the project zone by zone. And so we also looked at the nature of the roads from Benin to Wari. It’s also a very terrible situation. So we began to fight with the contractors, and I said there is no amount of asphalt you use on this road that will stand. So what we did was to excavate all the soil up to 1 meter depth, fill back with 500cm lumps, fill back with 400cm sand. And then now go back to fill with stone base, allow it for traffic to be on it. After 30 days, then you put an additional 10cm stone base. That is 55% cement. And then you have to use concrete.

He also said that the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund ( PIDF) was established for other strategic and critical projects that are capable of carrying Average Daily Trafick of 10,000 vehicles per day, including Abuja- Kaduna-Zaria-Kano highway. According to the Honourable Minister, ” Mr. President has just approved that the critical projects under PIDF be funded. I’m still pushing for the release of money based on Mr. President’s directive, and that is for Abuja-Kaduna,-Zaria-Kano Highway, it is very key and very important to Mr. President. But I have an issue with Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and I’ve just set up a committee to go and jointly review the project because they are asking for N1.5 trillion for that 375-kilometer dualized road. And for me, it is not justifiable.”

The Distinguished Senators were generally happy with the explanations given by the Hon. Minister of Works on the importance of the Tax Credit Scheme and the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund, the funding performance so far and why it may not come as an appropriation, being that the funds are still the money in the hands of the private sector front loaded for some years in the future.

The Senators spoke in turns starting from the former Chairman Senate on Works, *His Excellency Senator Mohammed A. Aliero*, who spoke in defence of the Tax Credit Scheme: “It (the Tax Credit Scheme) came because of the infrastructure deficit we have in the country, which budgetary provision can not be enough to meet it. If we continue budgeting the way we are budgeting, believe me, it will take us 30 to 40 years before we can complete road rehabilitation and other repairs. The only way we can do it is to look for extra funding. And to the best of my knowledge, the State Governors were fully involved in this tax related scheme. There was a meeting between the President and the Governors. The President told them that we have a very serious infrastructural deficit in the country, and the only way we can attend to it is to use tax credit. And they all agreed, ”

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, in his concluding remarks, said, “My conclusion is that the committee will look at all that we have just heard from you ( the Hon. Minister) and make our decisions. But based on what we have heard from you, we are convinced that the Tax Credit policy of the Federal Government is a welcome initiative, which is worthwhile and we believe that every exigency has a purpose for which that period needs. And that is what called for the Presidential Order. And what we will appeal to both NNPC, Federal Ministry of Works, and the contractors are to make sure that those projects are completed”

With this wonderful executive- legislature understanding and reciprocity in tackling the economic challenges facing the country, one can be sure that the administration of Mr. President is on the steady part of binging economic prosperity to our country.

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