Sixteen years after the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo dismantled tollgates on Federal highways, President Muhammadu Buhari is planning to revive it as the Federal Government continues to seek ways to generate more revenue for road maintenance and rehabilitation.
The decision to return the tollgates on Federal roads was announced by the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola. He said the government approved the return of the tollgates after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Buhari in Abuja.
Obasanjo had scrapped the tollgates, stating that it had outlived its usefulness to Nigerians. While giving his reasons for destroying the tollgates, Obasanjo said its daily returns of N63 million wasn’t that significant, considering the corruption surrounding the funds and the inconvenience motorists experienced due to the tollgates.
[READ MORE: FG earns N28.6 trillion from VAT, others]
The idea of returning the tollgates to federal highways was considered during the administration of former President, Goodluck Jonathan. It was, however, frowned upon then. But according to Fashola, no Nigerian law prohibits tolling in Nigeria.
“There is no reason why we can’t toll. There was a policy of government to abolish tollgates or dismantle toll plaza but there is no law that prohibits tolling in Nigeria today,” Fashola said, adding that the government was considering employing cashless payment through electronic mode.
Fashola said to achieve this, the Federal Government needed more land, and this might lead to the acquisition of more land by the government. He said 10 lanes were proposed in order to expand the length of the tollgates.
Shocking move: The move by the administration of Buhari to erect tollgates is shocking, knowing that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN – now a part of the ruling party, APC), condemned the move in 2011 when former President Jonathan’s administration was considering it. Speaking on behalf of the ACN then, Lai Mohammed, the current Minister of Information, had criticised the tollgates move.
“It is a cruel irony that the toll gates that were removed seven years ago when the roads in the country were still fairly motorable are to be reinstated now that the roads have virtually disappeared. Nigerians daily die on the traps that the roads have become, and all a government can say is that it will impose tolls on the same people. What style of governance is this?
”The ideal thing would have been for the government to begin a massive rehabilitation of the roads across the country, then allow Nigerians to ride freely on these roads for some time, if only to make up for the years they have suffered on the roads, before any contemplation of reinstating toll gates,” Lai Mohammed said.
Although during the announcement of the return of tollgates, Fashola said that approval had been given for two road contracts that were awarded by the previous administration of President Goodluck Jonathan but without being cash-backed from N30.3 billion to N46 billion. But considering the fact that the Lagos-Ibadan expressway is still under repair since Jonathan’s administration, no one can tell when this approval will yield result.
Value of the tollgates: With the Federal Government said to be cash-strapped, the tollgates will be a big plus to the government’s purse. If the Obasanjo-led administration could gross N63 million daily in 2003, making N23 billion yearly, then the Buhari administration can record more, regardless of how insignificant Obasanjo said the revenue was. Also, considering there are more vehicles on the road today than there was in 2003, the tollgates will be a goldmine.
Nigeria’s excess crude account falls to $72 million
Nigeria’s excess crude account has now fallen by a whopping 98% in just 5 years.
Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account (ECA) now stands at $72 million as the country continues to grapple with an unprecedented revenue crisis not seen since the early eighties. The ECA account has now fallen by about 98% within the last 5 years.
The information on the excess crude account was revealed by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed in a National Economic Council Meeting during the week. The ECA is a savings account retained by the Federal Government and is funded by the difference between the market price of crude oil and the budgeted price of crude oil as contained in the appropriation bill.
There were major concerns last November when it was reported that the ECA balances held just $324.5 million one of the lowest balances recorded at the time. At $72 million the ECA is in low territory highlighting the effect of the fall in crude oil prices this year. Crude oil prices have crashed to sub-zero in March and have risen back o just over $40/barrel in recent weeks. However, it still remains low from Nigeria’s previous budget benchmark.
ECA in the news
About a year ago Nairametrics reported Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account has dropped to $480 million. This is as controversy continues to trail the $1 billion military spendings which were withdrawn from Nigeria’s Excess Crude. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s annual report for 2018, Nigeria’s crude excess account fell from $2.45 billion in 2017 to $480 million as of December 2018.
Just 5 years ago (August 2015) the ECA stood at $2.2 billion. This was the early days of the Buhari administration. It was $3.6 billion in February 2014, one of the highest balances on record. That same month, at its monthly FAAC, the government agreed to remove fuel subsidy from its books. Fuel subsidy is currently being borne by the NNPC.
The Controversies: Last year, the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari was accused of mismanaging the country’s Excess Crude Account especially the $1 billion reportedly spent on military equipment.
- The National Security Adviser (NSA) retired Major General Babagana Monguno Gen. Babagana was quoted to have disclosed that he was not aware of the whereabouts or disbursement of the $1billion drawn from the ECA by the Buhari presidency in 2017 for security purposes.
- While controversies trail the statement credited to the NSA, with many describing it as diversion of public funds, the Presidency provided some explanations.
- Responding to the allegations, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed that various procurements had been made for the purchase of critical equipment for the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Navy, and the Air Force, contrary to the allegations.
Nigeria’s ECA in retrospect: In Nigeria, there are two Sovereign Wealth Funds: the Excess Crude Account and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA). Note that these two are funded by the savings earned when oil prices are at peak.
- Hence, as a larger chunk of revenue is appropriated for ECA and NSIA, the country’s external reserves are likely to fall.
- Note that the sovereign wealth fund was established to address the controversies surrounding the Excess Crude Account.
- The fund is usually expected to generate revenue to meet budget shortfalls in the future, provide dedicated funding for the development of infrastructure and saves for future generations.
ECA depleted by 98% in 5 years: A closer look at the various annual reports of the Central Bank of Nigeria shows that Nigeria’s excess crude account has now fallen by a whopping 98% in just 5 years.
Presidency dismisses allegation of Osinbajo receiving N4 billion from recovered loots
The accusation was described to be an obvious campaign of lies and calumny.
The office of the Vice President has reacted to a series of tweets accusing Professor Yemi Osinbajo of instructing the embattled acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, to release the sum of N4 billion out of N39 billion that was recovered from alleged looters.
These allegations have been described as “false and baseless”.
A statement that was signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, said, “with all emphasis at our disposal, let it be firmly stated that these are totally false and baseless fabrications purposing to reflect goings-on at the probe panel investigating Mr Ibrahim Magu”.
Ibrahim Magu was relieved of his duties this week, after a probe was conducted on his activities as Acting Chairman of the nation’s anti-graft agency. He has since been replaced with Mohammed Umar.
Meanwhile, the statement by the Presidency also complained about the recent rise in people being paid to “peddle blatant falsehoods” against the Vice President and says Mr Osinbajo “will not be distracted by these obvious campaigns of lies and calumny”.
The statement added that the online publications “being criminally defamatory in nature” have been referred to law enforcement agencies for investigation.
OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT
— Presidency Nigeria (@NGRPresident) July 8, 2020
Minister of Petroleum explains reasons for subsidy removal
The Minister said it was unrealistic for the government to continue with the subsidy regime.
The Federal Government has explained the reason for the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry. The government said that this was to ensure economic growth and development of the country.
This was disclosed by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, in a press statement on Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Abuja.
Sylva said that it was unrealistic for the government to still continue with the subsidy regime, especially with the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol, as it had no economic value.
He asked Nigerians to ignore the misinformation and misguided comments that have been in the public space on the issue.
According to the Minster, ‘’It has become expedient for the Ministry of Petroleum to explain misconceptions around the issue of Petroleum Products Deregulation. After a thorough examination of the economics of subsidizing PMS for domestic consumption, the government concluded that it was unrealistic to continue with the burden of subsidizing PMS to the tune of trillions of Naira every year.’’
“More so, when the subsidy was benefiting in large part the rich rather than the poor and ordinary Nigerians. Deregulation means that the Government will no longer continue to be the main supplier of Petroleum Products, but will encourage private sector to take over the role of supplying Petroleum Products.”
He pointed out that in line with global best practices, the price of petroleum products will be determined by market forces. He, however, added that the government will continue to play its traditional role of regulation and ensure that it was not priced arbitrarily by private sector suppliers.
Sylva said that the regulatory function will be similar to that played by the Central Bank of Nigeria in the banking sector where they try to make sure that deposit money banks do not charge arbitrary interest rates on its customers.
The minister noted that the government has earlier revealed that an increase in crude oil prices would also reflect at the pump price of petroleum products.
Going further Sylva said, ‘’Indeed, one of the reasons we have been unable to attract the level of investments we desire into the refining sector has been the burden of fuel subsidy. We need to free up that investment space so that what happened in the Banking Sector, Aviation Sector and other Sectors can happen in the Midstream and Downstream Oil Sector.’’
” We can no longer avoid the inevitable and expect the impossible to continue. There was no time government promised to reduce Pump Price and keep it permanently low. Let us, therefore, ignore the antics of unscrupulous middlemen who would want status quo ante to remain at the expense of the generality of Nigerians.,” he added.
He disclosed that the deregulation policy will attract more investments into the oil sector, create more jobs and opportunities and free up trillions of naira to develop infrastructure instead of enriching a few Nigerians.
The minister noted that government who is mindful of the impact of higher PMS prices on Nigerians is working to roll out the auto gas scheme which will provide citizens with alternative sources of fuel at lower cost.