Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel has called on the Federal Government, to remit funds, used for the construction of Federal roads in the State, maintaining it will aid in the delivery of other projects by his administration. Governor Emmanuel stated this, over the weekend at Government House, Uyo, when he received members of the Senate Committee on Works who were in the state to ascertain the level of federal roads.
While addressing the delegation, led by its Vice Chairman, Senator Clifford Ordia, the State Chief Executive revealed that the State is being owed monies summing up to N106 Billion and cited the Ibagwa Bridge in Abak, a section of the Calabar – Itu Highway, Uyo-Ikot Ekpene road as Federal Government projects executed by the State.
The Governor said he was surprised that the state was being asked by the Federal Inland Revenue Service [FIRS] to pay taxes on funds deducted from contractors, even when the apex Government was yet to reimburse the State and expressed worries over the workings of the taxes which he noted, exceeded the actual amount owed the State.
He said the projects were done by the State through statutory allocation, hinting it was wrong for FIRS to ask for taxes when the Federal Government was yet to remit the contract sum. ‘’Even the Calabar Bridge, Ikot Ekpene, Itu Road, I’m sure you are aware, we told the Chairman the last time, there was a terrible erosion that I spent so much money and uptill today, I’ve not been reimbursed”.
‘’Let me use this platform to also state this, Yesterday, we were surprised that the Federal Inland Revenue Service came and started counting taxes that we need to remit to them, on roads that we did for the Federal Government”. ‘’The amount they mentioned as tax liability was even more than the contract sum of the roads.
So I don’t know the workings of the tax and it is something we find very strange and I think the Senate should take this up with them”. ‘If the State Government uses its statutory allocation and work on Federal roads, it is wrong for FIRS to come and ask us for taxes deducted from contractors on that road, even when we are yet to be reimbursed”. ‘’So where will we get the money to give the Federal Government when they are supposed to give us back our money.
Like today, they are owing us close to N160 Billion, if you give me that kind of money and you want to take five percent as withholding tax, believe me, it is good”. Governor Emmanuel while appealing for a bond option by the Federal Ministry of Finance, lauded the Committee for the level of supervision of Federal roads and for sponsoring the Federal Road Authority Bill and expressed optimism that the bill, when passed into law, will tackle repulsing issues in the Federal Road Maintenance Agency [FERMA] Act .
Earlier, Vice Chairman of the Committee, Clifford Ordia, thanked Governor Emmanuel for his developmental drive and said they were in the State to inspect Federal roads. ‘’We have been here since morning and we have been able to visit some project sites, we have been to the rehabilitation site at Ikot Ekpene and work is currently going on there. And the bridge work along Arochukwu in Akwa Ibom, progress has also been made at the site”.
He said the development of the road sector can no longer be funded solely from the federation account and advocated for alternative funding of federal roads. He said in the spirit of this, the senate few weeks ago repealed the FERMA Act and re-enacted the federal road authority bill which when signed into law will make it easy for full private sector participation in the reconstruction and maintenance of roads.
Senator Ordia said that some major projects in the 2017 budget that are earmarked for Akwa Ibom such as the dualization of the Ikot Ekpene-Itu-Calabar Highway with a spur from Ibiakpan junction to Itu.
He said the project has already been awarded by the Federal Government to Julius Berger at N54bn, and expressed hope that the contractor will soon be mobilized to site. He also announced the readiness of the Federal Government to rehabilitate the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene Road(Phase1).
And thanked the Governor for the warm reception accorded his team. “It is our prayer that God will continue to protect and guide you and take Akwa Ibom State to another level”, he said.
Other members of the committee in the delegation were, Former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Barnabas Gemade, Representative of Niger South Senatorial District, Senator Sani Mustapha, Clerk of the Committee, Mrs Foluke Ogunbayo, Comptroller of Works, Engr H. O. Iluromi, Representative of the Director of High Way South South, Engr. O. U. Bakare and Deputy Clerk of the Committee, Mr George Ugo.