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FUEL LEVY: NEED FOR RETHINK

By NBF News
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As from next year, the Federal Government will introduce the five percent road users charge on petrol/diesel as provided by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) Act. It is expected that money generated will be used to maintain road infrastructure across the country.

Explaining the rationale for the move, the Minister of Works, Sanusi Daggash, said that budgetary allocations were not enough to fund road infrastructure in the country. Under the new policy, 40 percent of the money generated will go to FERMA for Abuja and federal roads across the country, while 60 percent will be utilized by state roads maintenance agencies.

Currently, 60 percent of federal roads across the country are in very bad shape, 20 percent manageable, while only 15 percent are in good condition.

While we appreciate government's seeming inability to give Nigerians well-paved roads despite huge budgetary allocations to the sector since 1999, we suggest that government should do a rethink on the fuel tax.

Already, Nigerians are saddled with lots of burdens, and adding the fuel levy would naturally escalate them. It is the duty of government to provide good roads, and this responsibility should not be abdicated to the citizens under any guise.

Aside from corruption, Nigeria has enormous material resources that can take care of all our infrastructural challenges. We do not need a fuel tax to put our roads in order as the Minister of Works wants us to believe. If the excesses of politicians and political office holders can be curbed drastically, Nigeria would have enough money to put its roads in order. Government should cut its overhead and concentrate more money on development projects. The cost of running government is a burden that must be reduced. Government should slash downwards the emoluments of all political office holders, especially the legislators, as a way of reducing cost.

The fuel tax had been touted in the past without any success. This time round, the outcome may not be different because the people would not accept any policy that would further pauperize them. There is no doubt that Nigerians are victims of government's bad policies and maladministration. Government should look at other avenues of saving money for roads infrastructure and spare the citizens the suffering that fuel levy will impose. The citizens are already chastised with whips, there's no need to chastise them further with scorpions.

Government should understand that fuel plays a vital role in the life of an average Nigerian. Any policy on fuel will have serious implications on all other sectors of national life. It will lead to sharp increase in transportation, food and other services that depend on fuel for running. Its multiplier effect would have serious implication for the economy and further skyrocket the inflation rate.

The fuel levy is not in the overall interest of Nigerians and therefore should be dropped. It is sad that this policy is coming at a time the government has approved the N18,000 minimum wage for Nigerian workers. Going on with it is like taking with left hand what government has given with the right hand. In other words, the fuel tax will make nonsense of whatever benefit that would accrue to workers from the recent wage increment.

Instead of the fuel tax, let government try the Built-Operate-Transfer (BOT) option in rehabilitating all federal roads and recoup the money expended over several years. Under the BOT, the burden would be spread in such a way that the impact will be minimal. The road tax in all its ramifications is exploitative and burdensome. We cannot support it. Let government do away with it.