Big companies to pay for new roads in Nigeria

Facing a general election next month, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has initiated a public-private partnership scheme in which six big private companies will pay for 794km of new roads in return for tax breaks.

At the same time, Buhari is fighting accusations of returning Nigeria to military rule after he suspended the country’s top judge over alleged conduct code breaches.

Nineteen new federal roads will be built in 11 states, financed by the companies, including cement makers Dangote and Lafarge, who stand to benefit from improved transport in the country.

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, hailed Buhari’s Executive Order 007, which the president signed Friday, 25 January in Abuja.

"As we speak today all of you know the deplorable conditions of roads in Nigeria," Dangote told reporters. "This order will allow private sector to use their capital, their knowhow and also their efficiency in terms of delivering roads in time."

The companies selected to participate in the programme are Dangote Industries Limited; Lafarge Africa Plc; Unilever Nigeria Plc; Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc; Nigeria LNG Limited; and China Road and Bridge Corporation Nigeria Limited.

They will recoup their investments in the roads through reductions in corporate taxes, Nigerian finance minister Zainab Ahmed said.

Buhari is seeking another term in a general election to be held on 16 February.

However, his campaign became embroiled in controversy after he suspended Nigeria’s top judge, Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, who has been accused of failing to disclose bank accounts in foreign currencies.

Opposition figures called the action, also taken on Friday, as a "dangerous and brazen assault on the constitution", reports CNN. 

The president of Nigeria’s Senate, Bukola Saraki, accused Buhari, who led a military coup in Nigeria in 1983, of returning the country to a military dictatorship.

"This action is capable of undermining the nation’s judiciary, subverting the constitution, intimidating judges of all the courts of record, and creating uncertainty in the electoral process," he said, reports Premium Times.

Image: Muhammadu Bari on a visit to Niger State, 19 January 2019 (From the official Twitter account of the President of Nigeria)

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