By Emameh Gabriel, SOLOMON AYADO, Abuja and Abdullahi Olesin, Ilorin
The Senate has allayed fears that the N5 tax for roads maintenance in the proposed National Road Fund Bill would lead to an increase in the pump price of premium motor spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol, from the current price if N145 per litre.
Senate President Bukola Saraki in a statement, yesterday, said the N5 tax would be deducted from the current pump price of N145 per litre.
Similarly, the chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Senator Kabiru Gaya, in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP, at the weekend, said the issue of increase in pump price of petrol had yet to be discussed on the floor of the Senate.
The proposed legislation by the Senate, last week, was met with public outcry, with motorists and commuters accusing the lawmakers of attempting to impoverish the people more.
But Saraki in a statement insisted that there was no cause to worry as the recommendation would not amount to any increase in the price of fuel.
He explained that the report of the Senate Committee which worked on the National Road Funds Bill came from deliberations during a public hearing in which all stakeholders made different suggestions on how to generate funds for maintenance of the nation’s road network, but that there was a consensus on the desirability of the Fund and the need to ensure that the money to be generated from sale of fuel for the fund should be accommodated within the current price regime.
“There is a Bill called the National Road Funds Bill. Our roads around the country are not adequately funded. If we are banking on the appropriations process, we will not be able to adequately fund and refurbish our roads.
“Anybody that read the full report would have known that after the public hearing, which involved stakeholders from the road and transport industry, it was recommended that N5 (five naira) from each litre of petrol should be channeled towards our roads. However, this is not going to be additional five naira, but five naira out of the present price of N145 that Nigerians are currently paying at the pump,” he said.
The Senate president further said Nigerians should be reassured that the Senate has not even debated the recommendations of the committee’s report which came with a clear proviso that the five naira should come from a restructuring of the existing template.
He further stated that the Senate would, this week, discuss a motion on the interest rates being charged by commercial banks on loans to customers, particularly entrepreneurs, who need borrowed funds to stay afloat and contribute to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Meanwhile, Senator Gaya told LEADERSHIP that the whole information in the Road Fund Bill proposed by his committee was misinterpreted with the intent of creating negative perception in the hearts of the good people of Nigeria against the Senate.
Asked at what point the plan to increase petrol price came up, the former Kano State governor said the whole information was deliberately misconstrued.
“They said the Senate is increasing fuel price? That was wrong! They don’t even understand what we are talking about. In the last seven years that I have been in the Senate, there was a N5 levy which the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) was supposed to be deducting, even when the pump price was N87 per litre from the amount sold and remitting to FERMA to maintain roads.
“From our calculation, PPPRA has not paid N167 billion to FERMA. I raised this issue then and wanted to continue this time again, that the same N5 which was supposed to be paid before that they didn’t pay, should be deducted, reduced and removed from the N145 not to increase.
“Because they just wanted to be mischievous, they used ‘increase,” he explained.
Reacting to the proposed law, the President of Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr Frank Jacobs, said the spiral effect of the proposed N5 levy on imported petroleum products would be “unprecedented” on the economy.
Jacob said though MAN was yet to officially meet over the issue, the proposal was not bad in its entirety.
He, however, said the proposal was ill-timed and that the lawmakers should reconsider the appropriateness of the timing of the bill and the choice of products like PMS and diesel.