By Kazeem Ugbodaga
There is outrage in the land over the decision of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to handover the Apapa to Oworonshoki end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, a 35 kilometres long highway to the Dangote Group to rebuild using concrete, and as well getting a recompense in the form of 10-year tax holiday.
Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, had disclosed at the Business Day Road Construction Seminar last Friday in Lagos, that the contract for the road network comprising Creek Road, Liverpool Road, Marine Beach all the way to Mile 2, Oshodi, Oworonshoki, to the Lagos end of the Toll Gate on the Ibadan Expressway was signed with the Dangote Group on September 12, 2017.
Fashola said to encourage the Dangote Group to embark on the project which the government is still waiting for its designs, the government had approved an upward review of a tax incentive to the group to 10 years.
But Nigerians, especially activists have kicked against the move by the Federal Government through the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Fashola to handover the road to Dangote in exchange for 10-year tax holiday.
Comrade Debo Adeniran, founder, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL condemned the move to grant tax holiday to Dangote, saying that it was a continuation of the monopoly or advantages given to Dangote.
“Dangote has been able to corner all businesses in the country,” he said, adding that he had no confidence in the judgment of Fashola in awarding the contract to Dangote for a 10-year tax holiday.
“It is unthinkable that every aspect of Nigeria’s life is being given to Dangote. One will not know how they arrive at what Dangote will pay as tax. Nobody knows what he pays as tax per annum. If this idea has emanated from Buhari, people will say it is nepotism, but Fashola encourages the private sector to exploit the masses.
“If Dangote does not pay tax, the treasury will be depleted. The move is a slap on Nigerians. Dangote has gained a lot from Nigerians that he should be able to fix the road without being given tax holiday,” he said.
According to Nelson Ekujumi of the Committee for the Protection of Peoples Mandate (CPPM), “I don’t think the construction of the road is commensurate. It is not a wise decision, Dangote has businesses all over the nation and the money that will accrue to government will be loss.
“Government should stop this idea, it is not economical and viable. We need to sit down and look for ways to construct the road. We will challenge this decision.”
Comrade ‘Biodun Aremu of the Joint Action Front, JAF, frowned at government’s attempt to give up public assets to private interest, saying it was always good for the government to take ownership of public assets.
Aremu said there was need to know how much Dangote pay as taxes to the government and compared it to the valuation of the road, adding that if the taxes he had to pay for the next 10 years was not equal to the amount to be used in constructing the road, then there is a problem.
Shina Loremikan of the Campaign Against Impunity, said “I hope we will soon get out of the darkness we find ourselves, unbecoming of an individual to get everything for himself. Some years ago, Dangote got a monopoly to operate the cement industry. If you give him such road, what will happen to others?
“I am afraid that we are getting deep into the darkness we find ourselves. This idea of privatization is getting too much by giving all to one man. The government should go back to the drawing board. Not paying tax will have consequence on the economy.”
A Nigerian, Felicia Akinwale said roads should be tolled, but noted that “I don’t support giving tax holidays to Dangote in exchange for road repairs. The actions of the man caused a lot of these bad roads in the first instance. He must be paying a premium for all the footprints his business is causing like potholes on our roads.”
According to AyoJon Yinka, “I’m used to toll roads that have feeders. So, toll roads can be avoided and not forced. Also, no design has been tendered but concession has been approved. Did you read in any paper that the process was advertised?”