Senate dumps N5 fuel levy
Senate has dumped a proposed National Roads Funds Bill, which recommends increase in pump price of petrol, to fund road projects in the country.
Lawmakers also passed a Bill scrapping the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and replaced it with Federal Roads Authority (FRA).
The bill, sponsored by Kabiru Gaya, was read for the third time at yesterday’s plenary before it was passed through a unanimous voice vote.
Reagrdless, the National Roads Funds Bill, was withdrawn, after the chamber adopted a suggestion by Senator Binta Masi Garba that it be stepped down in the interest of Nigerians.
The Works Committee, chaired by Gaya, had, last week, in a report, recommended a levy of N5 per litre on any volume of petrol and diesel products imported into Nigeria and on non-locally refined petroleum products.
The committee also proposed that toll fees, not exceeding 10 per cent of any revenue, be paid as user charge, per vehicle, on any designated federal road.
The payment will not be applicable to roads under the Public Private Partnership arrangement.
The Senate panel had equally proposed that there should be “inter-state mass transit user charge of 0.5 per cent deductible from fares paid by passengers to commercial mass transit operators on inter-state roads.
“It is our hope that this legislation, when passed, will contribute positively to the economic growth of the nation and impact positively on the lives of Nigerians and deliver a road sector that will be a model for other countries,” a part of the report read.
But, at yesterday’s plenary, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio and Kabiru Marafa, led an offensive against withdrawal of the bill which ought to have been considered and passed.
Earlier, putting up defence before the bill was withdrawn, Gaya said: “There was a media report last week that we are increasing fuel by N5. That is not true.
“We intend to remove the N5 from the current N145 per litre. If this bill is passed, the government will realise about N94 billion per annum.”
Opposing the bill, senator Marafa said its passage will further impoverish Nigerians. and urged his colleagues not to support it.
He said: “My comments are on the method of funding. The claims that the N5 charge has already been captured is not correct. Taking another N5 from refined products will add to the suffering of the people.
“This will bring untold hardship to the people of Nigeria…I oppose the recommendations.”
Lawan, while moving that the bill be stepped down, said: “The report of Gaya will not work. When we reach the bridge, we will cross it.”
Akpabio, who seconded Lawan’s motion, quipped: “I want to align myself with the submissions of other speakers. I have reservations about the bill.
“I had an experience with the Police Equipment Fund when I was governor. Throughout my time as governor, I did not get any fund.”
When Ekweremadu, who presided at plenary put the question to a voice vote, if it was the wish of the Senate that the bill be stepped down to another day, almost all the lawmakers said ‘aye,’ including members of the Works committee who signed the initial report, which recommended increase in pump price of fuel by N5.
Again, Gaya got up to defend his position. He said: “We need to make further consultations. There has never been a proposal for increase. We are saying a deduction from the current N145…”
Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, supported Gaya and added: “We need to suspend our procedure and explain to Nigerians.
“If we do not do this, there will be trouble. Nigerians will think we want to increase fuel price.
In his final intervention, Ekweremadu, before the chamber adjourned for the day, said: “Senate has no intention of increasing the price of fuel. There is no ambiguity about it.
“What we are trying to do is to find other sources of funding road infrastructure.
“We do not want to impose hardship on the people of Nigeria. We want to ensure that those who voted for us have comforts in their lives.”
Thereafter, Senate resolved that the bill be withdrawn, to allow the committee consider some of the issues raised on the proposal.
Meanwhile, the upper legislative chamber has raised the alarm over continous operation of fuel subsidy regime.
The chamber said contrary to claims by the Federal Government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is still operating a subsidy regime.
Marafa, who chairs the Petroleum Resources (Dowsntream) committee made the claims on the floor of the Senate, yesterday.
He said contrary to claims by the federal government, that the fuel subsidy regime had been abolished, NNPC is still making secret payments.
Marafa claimed that the situation has crippled the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, where NNPC has become sole importer of products.
The lawmaker revealed that his committee is currently investigating the illegal payment of subsidy by management of NNPC.
“…Even the price of N145 is not realistic…”
“The NNPC is still operating the subsidy regime. NNPC is now the only body importing petroleum products into the country.
“You cannot import petroleum products into the country right now with the current trend. We are investigating this subsidy payment by the NNPC,” said Marafa.