The Federal Executive Council says henceforth, state governments will not be refunded for repairing federal roads within their territories.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced this to State House reporters yesterday after the virtual federal cabinet meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He, however, announced that the FEC approved the refunds of N148,141,987,161.25 to five states spent on federal roads before the new guidelines. The benefitting states are Cross River N18,394,737,608.85; Ondo N7,822,147,577.08; Osun N2,468,938,876.78; Bayelsa, N38,040,564,783.40 and Rivers N78,953,067,518.29.
Mohammed said the five states got the refunds after the committees constituted by Buhari confirmed that the roads and the bridges built about 10 years ago were completed and in substantial good form.
He said the sum of over N500bn had earlier been paid to 31 states.
“There is a caveat, the Federal Government will pay the states, however, henceforth, if any state takes on federal government road, it will not be paid, they will not get any refund. Even if you want to pay from your own pocket, you will still need the permission of the federal government and it will be supervised by the federal ministry of works and housing.
He said: “You’d recall that in 2016, 36 states of the federation sent a very huge bill to the federal government, asking for compensation for money that they’ve expended on federal roads. This prompted Mr President to set up a committee to go and verify the claims of these 36 states, whether indeed these projects were actually constructed and completed in line with the federal government standards.
“At the end of that exercise by an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by the Minister of Works and Housing but also had Ministers of Education, Transportation, Finance, Minister of State for Works, DG BPP and permanent secretary cabinet office as members.
“At the end of that exercise, the committee recommended that the federal government should refund N550,364,297.31 to 31 of the 36 states, after they were convinced that, yes indeed, the projects were completed and there were federal government roads. But the claims of five other states Cross River, Rivers, Ondo, Bayelsa and Osun failed on the grounds that they did not do proper documentation and the committee felt they needed proper documentation.
‘This is not a new declaration’
Reacting through his spokesman, Yinka Oyebode, the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, told one of our correspondents that the Federal Government had made such a declaration before.
According to him, “if it is a fresh development, the Nigeria Governor’s Forum will meet and take a position on the matter.
“Those states which are affected will express their views on the matter and all of them will take a position.”
‘No provision for refund in the constitution’
A constitutional lawyer, Paul Ananaba (SAN), said there is no provision for a refund of road repairs expenditure in the constitution.
He said since there is a demarcation between federal and state roads, known as Trunks A, B, C, any governor embarking on such repairs has to do so in agreement with the federal government.
“You cannot do that without an agreement with the federal government. The unfortunate thing is that people in the states only know the governors, and not the president, in terms of project delivery,” he said.
Meanwhile, Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy for Social Economic Rights, Frank Tietie, told Daily Trust that the decision to stop refunding the states for federal road projects executed was not in the interest of Nigeria as it would worsen the already deplorable states of the nation’s highways.
On her part, the Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan, said: “This is one cut the government has to make to remain solvent in this hard time. The so-called process of building and refund of monies for roads by states is rife with corruption.”