Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, yesterday assured Nigerians and road users that his ministry was fixing bad roads across the country ahead of the Christmas and New Year festivities in spite of paucity of funds, even as contractors are being owed about N306 billion.
His assurance came in Abuja yesterday while hosting officials of the Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA), who called on the government to toll the roads as part of efforts to tackle the problem poor roads.
Responding to the remarks of the PTONA President, Isaac Uhunmwagho, Fashola said, “I heard you talk about tolling roads and bridges. Well, as you said, government is actually spending a lot of money in subsidising fuel, and that is a lot of money from government to spend on subsidy.
“I would have loved that that money came to the Ministry of Works, but the numbers I was trying to get for you is that for over four years, between 2015 and 2018, the entire amount we got was not up to N1 trillion in actual cash in this ministry.
“The budget, yes! But not all of the budget is funded. So if we had N1 trillion to spend on Nigerian roads we would be in a much better position. As at October, we were owing contractors N306 billion and more bills are coming in and all we got was N73 billion.”
He wondered why some Nigerians were against an increase in value added tax (VAT) by government despite the very limited resources available for infrastructure development.
He noted: “This is a country where some people are of the opinion that the government shouldn’t raise VAT. Some people are also of the opinion that government should not even borrow. So, I think it is important for those of you here to also come out and take a position.”
On tolling the roads, he noted that the federal government would introduce tolls on roads when the time is right for the initiative, stressing that, “when it is time to start, of course, we will articulate a clear policy for the information of Nigerians. That is the much I will say about that.” he stated.